Tucked on a side street in Harajuku, this Italian-inspired cafe is stylish, cozy, and offers some of the best java found in Tokyo.

Harajuku is perhaps a great spot to stock up on the latest trends (neon beanies and tattoo stockings?), but when it comes to food or coffee, I always struggle to get quality eats around that area. However, as my friend and I were pacing around trying to find a decent place that served hot drinks and nibbles, we luckily (and very randomly) found ourselves at Luigi, which instantly became a favourite of ours.

The cafe was named after famed Swiss-born industrial designer Luigi Colani; in the mid-1980s, while absorbed in design development here in Tokyo, Colani used to frequently visit a small cafe in Harajuku named “Petit Faune”, owned by Shimazu Hideya. It was only later that Shimazu found out that the tall gentleman with a moustache was the famous designer Luigi Colani. After mustering up the courage to ask him, the owner changed the name of the cafe to “Luigi” in his honour.

The cafe is simple and comfortable, furnished with wooden tables and has some of Colani’s sketches on the walls. The coffee is outstanding – not the overpriced, watery sludge often offered in sadly too many cafes in this city. It is rich, full-bodied espresso with the perfect balance of bittersweetness. We also tried the hot chocolate, which came frothy and adorned with melted marshmallows.

Although the food is not the focus, the cafe does offer a small menu, with items as varied as salad and curry. I snacked on a piece of buttered toast with the daily jam selection (strawberry that day…), and it was a most comforting meal on a chilly December evening. The friendly staff let us lounge there for as long as we fancied, in the most relaxed and quiet atmosphere.

I could spend every single evening at Luigi’s – now I can understand why a designer like Colani was able to get so much work done and perhaps gather inspiration in that special little nook.

by Vivian Morelli

Cafe Luigi

Shibuya, Jingumae 4-31-1 (see map)

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