(This review refers to a visit made in September 2011)
One of the common complaints I have heard from Americans in Japan (and felt myself, really) is the lack of certain foods. Mexican, deli sandwiches, and pizza tend to come up a lot.
But the landscape of pizza offerings in the Tokyo area has changed over the past few years. Instead of the typical delivery options with their array of exotic and expensive pies, there are now a few places that at least claim to offer America-quality pizza. Depending on where you’re from that might not sound like an attractive claim, but for me and no doubt many others, it’s oh-so tempting. Today we will focus on Rocco’s but I’d like to review all of them eventually.
Sbarro’s recently opened up in a few locations, and while I haven’t tried them, I have very big doubts about whether they can match even the low standards of their various rest stops and malls across the US of A.
A new craft beer bar in Kanda called Devil Craft also offers Chicago-style pizza that is pretty good and worth trying. There might be some other options in the west side of Tokyo, but it is rare for me to venture out there.
Then there’s Costco, which has a food stand with mainly pizza and hot dogs at their Japan locations. If I recall you need to sign up for a membership to even try it out, so that won’t be an option for a lot of residents here. For those who do join, you can avail yourself of the typical Costco pizza experience you’d have in America – that is, very greasy, thick, and ultimately kind of mediocre. But for a while I thought my infrequent stops at Costco were the only viable pizza option.
No more, thanks to the emergence of one Rocco’s Pizza in Oji. Located in northeast Tokyo near the Saitama border (on Keihin Tohoku line among others), Rocco’s advertises itself as a New York-style pizza chain. After a discussion popped up on Facebook about various pizza options, someone recommended this place and we decided to check it out.
If you read Japanese, the place is very easy to find. If you don’t tell your significant other or friend to get on the Google and find it! There’s a well fleshed-out entry in the Tabelog site and their own bare-bones website. But if not here is a rough approximation:
You enter and immediately see a pile of ready-made pies. You order and they reheat them, or if you order a less common slice or a whole pie they will make it fresh.
We got three slices: of cheese, pepperoni, and sausage & peppers. All the ingredients were fresh and real. These were some of the more conventional kinds, but they also offered exotic toppings like Hawaiian and margherita. Next time I might try the Mexican pizza.
The slices tasted like they should, with a sweet sauce and crispy crust. It was all perfectly cooked and if I had to compare it to back home, I’d say it’s on par with a moderately above-average pizza place. Now bear with me, that is HUGE praise for a pizza restaurant in Japan since decent pizza is so hard to come by.
The owner and operator is an American who moved here from Los Angeles to open the store. It’s a family-run place with a very friendly atmosphere. Apparently, the restaurant was named after the owner’s family cat, which sadly died during the immunization process required to bring pets into Japan.
On a more upbeat note, they plan to install a TV soon with all the channels to show sports for those of you who are into that kind of thing.
Word of mouth is apparently getting around, because the other party that night was another American male-Japanese female couple who came all the way from Yokohama to check it out. They were just as excited as I was to find a real, good place for authentic, real American pizza!
Update: We haven’t been back since, basically because it’s kind of out of the way. At some point we will probably head back over there. Also, I haven’t been able to convince coworkers to go since Devil Craft is so much closer. The owner spoke of opening in a more convenient location in the near future.