Pizzeria Meri Principessa, Shinsen, Shibuya

Food & Drink - January 25th, 2011

I’m sick of mass-produced junk pizza and chain restaurants. I want to forget about Pizza Hut, Dominos and Shakey’s. I’ve been on a quest to find some decent hand-made pizza in Tokyo, and, in a back street near Shinsen, I think I’m on to something good.

Between numerous combinis, and located a stones throw away from seedy “Love Hotel Hill”, I found the tiny restaurant Meri Principessa with not a “deep dish” or stuffed crust in sight. The restaurant has the word “PIZZERIA” clearly emblazoned on the front — simple, unpretentious and to the point, a lot like the food inside. Stepping in from the cold, you are warmly greeted by the staff behind the curving bar counter. The basement houses a bigger restaurant room for more intimate (and pricier) dining, but the counter is welcoming enough to drop by after work, and that way you get to chat to the chefs to boot if you like.

Owner chef Kei Eguchi and his team kneed the pizza dough right in front of customers, a good way to guarantee the freshness of the ingredients. A litmus test in all pseudo-Italian diners is the Margherita pizza: The Margherita is so simple it can easily go wrong, with too much cheese, bad sauce or an artificially thick base.

Eguchi could teach chain restaurants a thing or two about simplicity: His Margherita consists of a fresh ball of dough, a ladel of tomato sauce, a sprinkle of mozzarella, fresh basil and olive oil. That’s it. The five-minute masterpiece is then slid straight into the wood fired oven behind the counter. You can watch it cook, and before I had time to read the rest of the menu, I was presented a steaming, hand-made pizza for just ¥500.

The restaurant sells a wide range of antipasto from ¥450, fresh shellfish and all the Italian desserts you would expect, including a reasonably priced tiramisu. Drinks include imported grappa, beer and wine and quality Italian coffees.

You will really need an iPhone or at least a good map to find the place, but it is well worth the effort. The location is one stop from Shibuya on the Inokashira line, so its close enough to visit before hitting the center of town, (or braving a walk up the notorious hill behind).

Trying to impress a date? Go with one of chef Eguchi’s recommendations: the Nero. The pizza sauce is unusually jet black, as it is colored with squid ink, and is topped with fresh seafood and a little cheese. It looks very odd going into the oven, but tastes great coming out. Try ordering something like that from Pizza Hut.

Pizzeria Meri Principessa is located at 22-1 Maruyama-cho, Shibuya-ku;
for more information, call (03) 5456-9394

Homepage: click here