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From the first time I came here, things have changed a lot: ten years ago, seeing a westerner around Tokyo was rare, today there are many. It means that Japan has moved towards us, and we to it.
Tokyo is still a confusion of lights, colours, sounds, geometries; of streets and crowded stations, high-quality subways, robotics and super-fast trains, and much more. But, above all, what strikes me again is its mixture of past, present and future, as in a sort of temporal collapse, which has its magic, but for us Westerners can seem to clash. We move from the sensory experiences of the last generation, devoted to communication and social exchanges, spread by the thousand digital screens scattered around the city, to moments of intimate recollection, addressed to the soul, as during the Hatsumode, the ceremony of the first day of the year in which the Japanese go to their favorite temples, and the frenetic rhythms of this metropolis suddenly slow down. But looking around and searching in this visionary roundabout of things and emotions, I found one that closely unites us Italians to the Japanese: the love of food, the art of conviviality at the table, rituals and traditions related to spending time together, eating.
Some friends show me around and for days I taste and savor typical dishes of all kinds, based on meat, chicken, fish. The offer is vast and orientation requires time and effort. But it also gives a lot of satisfaction. And among the many international cuisines one cannot miss, of course, the Italian one. I ask about a restaurant, one of the most famous here in the city. It is located in the district of Komazawa, not far from the popular Shibuya, with the unmistakable name “Napoli sta ‘ca”, conducted by the owner Giuseppe Errichiello, for everyone, Italians and Japanese, Peppe. At “Napoli sta ‘ca” the choice is wide. All the great classics of Neapolitan cuisine appear on the menu, and of course pizza.
Peppe’s ambition is to make the best of the Mediterranean tradition and the taste of his beloved Naples known to all. Pasta, pizza, fish, mozzarella, broccoli. Most of the ingredients, he tells me, he gets directly from his city. And of course after a careful selection. But he also has other products, especially wines, that come from various regions of Italy. And “Gambero Rosso” has awarded him prizes for the excellence of Italian catering in the world for two years in a row. The last one in the 2017-2018 edition.
Peppe here has become a public figure: he often appears on television, goes to schools to teach Japanese children how to make the real Neapolitan pizza, to tell them the secrets of his dough. But who knows if he reveals everything to them. And through the Italian embassy he founded the “Pizzaioli Napoletani Association”, which aims to re-evaluate the professional figure of the pizza maker and spread it throughout the world.
Among the various events, every year he organizes “Napoli Pizza Village”. And every night he can be found in his restaurant, always working hard, until late at night.
In Japan, as Peppe also confirms, there has always been a great passion for everything “made in Italy”, together with a meticulous attention in trying to reproduce it to perfection. And Peppe has been able to act as a trait d’union between our culture and theirs, creating his own all Italian recipe for success. For all of us an example of Italian excellence, and not just at the table.