Five years ago, I visited Italy and my first meal upon arrival was Neapolitan-style pizza. One bite and I was in love, a passion that continues to this day. Pizza is beloved around the world, and Japan is no exception. A new addition to the Tokyo pizza scene, Pizzeria Filonico serves up Neapolitan-style pizza in the heart of Toyocho.
Located on the corner of a busy main street, a 15-minute walk from Toyocho Metro station, Pizzeria Filonico is a slice of Italy. A cozy, family-style restaurant, the atmosphere is inviting, further encouraged by the charm of owner and pizza-enthusiast Mr. Yamanouchi. According to him, the high-traffic area is ideal, “At lunch, we mostly get office workers, and in the evenings, families and friends. I wanted to create a place that was comfortable, where people could spend time and enjoy good food”.
At the heart of the restaurant is the impressive wood-fired brick pizza oven, a rarity in Japan. Roaring away, despite the summer heat, it is always at the ready. For Neapolitan-style pizza, heat is key. “The crust is thin, and the high heat creates the bubbly and slightly charred crust that is integral to the flavour”, Mr. Yamanouchi explained. The high heat, 400-500 Celsius, means the pizzas are done in 2-3 minutes and the oven capacity allow for 3 pizzas to be fired at the same time.
What makes a good pizza? After a proper oven, it all comes down to ingredients, and at Pizzeria Filonico, much of the basics, such as flour, cheese, and olive oil, are all imported from Italy. Then, any toppings are seasonal, with the menu changing every few weeks.
There is a wide selection, including appetizers, salads, pasta, and dessert, but the main focus is the pizza. The classics, such as margherita, four cheese, and prosciutto are all present, along with bianca (a mozzarella base) and panna (cream sauce base) options. Mr. Yamanouchi is always experimenting with new creations and this week’s special was the intriguing “edamame and camembert cheese”. The lunch specials start at 1000 yen for pasta, and 1200 for pizza with a non-alcoholic drink included, or an extra 200 yen for a glass of wine.
While at the restaurant, we were treated to a tasting of the grilled tankakugyu (shorthorn wagyu beef) and Marguerita pizza. Mr. Yamanouchi quickly set up the work station at the counter right next to the oven. The ingredients were all neatly lined up: dough, tomato sauce, basil, and mozzarella. He explained the dough is made fresh every morning, to ensure the best tasting crust possible, and the tomato sauce is also made in-house. He expertly stretched the dough, placed the toppings, and tossed it into the oven with a pizza peel, carefully rotating his creation to ensure even browning. Served hot with spicy olive oil, everything, the dough, sauce, mozzarella, and basil, tasted amazingly fresh.
Next was the beef and thin-cut fries, a real treat. Quickly seared in a cast-iron pan and simply seasoned with salt and pepper, the slices of beef are served medium rare and would be the ideal appetizer for a group of 3-4. The basic seasoning allows the full flavour of the meat to stand out.
While at the restaurant, we also had the chance to meet Mr. Sasanuma, the manager and trained sommelier. He explained Pizzeria Filonico also carries a wide selection of imported European wines and craft beers, mainly from Italy. A map on the wall highlighted where each bottle was from, and he is always happy to recommend the ideal pairing.
Living in Japan, wood-fired pizza, especially pizza made with authentic Italian ingredients, doesn’t happen everyday and I’m already thinking about what I’ll order next time. Whether on your own, or with friends or family, I highly recommend making your way to Pizza Filonico. Reservations can be made for lunch or dinner, or even for a pizza party serving up to 30. More details are available on their website.
Story and Photos by Jenna Wilson