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Sunday, Aug. 5, 2001

TOKYO FOOD FILE

A trattoria that's simply delizioso


Delizioso Italia is a pretty unimaginative (and possibly ungrammatical) name for a restaurant. But there's very little else that feels out of place here. It's not a clone of the cheap-chic Capricciosa concept but a fine and friendly trattoria that turns out some highly enjoyable cucina.

It could be Tuscany: Delizioso Italia

After eating well there earlier in the year, we'd been waiting for summer to come round in anticipation of some excellent open-air dining. Delizioso's shrub-enclosed frontage peers out onto a quiet alley. That means not only is it quiet and dark outside, but you don't have to worry about unwanted diesel particulates garnishing your pasta along with the parmigiano.

The interior is decked out in the style of a rustic Tuscan tavern, with beams and brickwork and heavy cast-iron chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. There's even a crossbow propped up on a lintel at the back. Hams and strings of garlic dangle above the long counter that separates the kitchen work space from the dining area.

Rustic Italian fare awaits on a back street in Ebisu.

The main design feature of the kitchen is the gleaming copper-fronted pizza oven. But pride of place on the menu goes to the grilled foods -- of which they offer a changing selection of fish, fowl and meat. To get an idea of what they are capable of, order the mixed plate, featuring chicken (tender and succulent); lamb chops (tasty but disappointingly scrawny and a tad too rare ); and some of their plump, well-flavored homemade sausages.

The pizza is consistently good, though not at quite the outstanding level of, say, Isola or Savoy. The simplest are the best: It's hard to go wrong with a generous covering of prosciutto and arugula, whereas the more complex pizzas tend toward sogginess in the dough.

Other dishes we have enjoyed at Delizioso include the warming, savory bagna cauda, which featured celeriac as one of the raw dipping vegetables; a sturdy carpaccio of Ezo-shika (Hokkaido deer meat), served with good fresh arugula and a generous topping of parmesan shards; and some very competent pasta.

The wines are well-chosen and not unreasonably priced: We had a very drinkable Barolo (try the 1995 Cascina Bruni, if it's still in stock). And at the end of the evening, it's hard to resist all those bottles of premium grappa arrayed right by the front door.

Thanks to such reliable food and drink, comfortable surroundings and attentive service, Delizioso Italia is invariably crowded. Reservations are highly recommended. Our only disappointment was that, in the end, we found they don't open the windows in the peak of summer, when it's too muggy outside for comfort. We're looking forward to coming back next month.

Delizioso Italia 4-27-17 Ebisu, Shibuya-ku; tel: (03) 3440-5510
Open: Noon-2:30 p.m. (last order 1:30 p.m.); 5:50 p.m.-12:30 a.m (last order 11 p.m.); Saturday and holidays: 5:50 p.m.-12:30 a.m. (last order 11 p.m.)
Closed: Sunday
Nearest station: Ebisu (JR and Hibiya lines)
How to get there:From Ebisu Station (East Exit), walk down to the Fuji Bank crossing and walk along past Zest Cantina. Turn right at the first set of lights, then left down the first small alley. Delizioso Italia is on the left after a few meters.
What works: The waiting staff take good care of you.
What doesn't:Your fellow diners can get quite shrill at times.
Number of seats:45
Price per head: 4,000 yen (plus drinks)
Drinks: Beer from 600 yen; wine from 500 yen/glass, 2,000 yen/decanter, 3,500 yen/ bottle
Credit cards:Most accepted (cash only at lunch)
Language:Italian/English menu; little English spoken
Reservations: Recommended

Finally, after long years operating (but not owning) Shimo-Kitazawa's best two Italian restaurants, Angelo Cozzolino has opened up a place of his very own in Jiyugaoka called Babbo Angelo. And he's certainly got his priorities right: His kitchen space, complete with a shiny new pizza oven, is about the same size as the intimate dining area.

Fans of La Befana already know that Angelo produces an exceptionally tasty pizza. And anyone who has ever dined at Il Cantuccio will testify that his satisfying Tuscan cooking is worth going out of your way for. This is exactly the kind of down-home, authentic cucina that Jiyugaoka needs much much more of.

Babbo Angelo, Reed Bldg. 2F, 1-25-12 Jiyugaoka, Meguro-ku; tel: (03) 5729-4339. Open 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; 5:30-10:30 p.m.; Saturday, Sunday, 5-10:30 p.m. Closed Monday.

Meanwhile, the excellent Elio Locanda in Kojimachi has opened a cafe -- or rather, caffe -- on the basement level of the Mitsukoshi department store in Yebisu Garden Place. A crew of keen, young Italians serve up espressos, light meals, focaccia sandwiches and pizzas. They also have some wicked gelati, which you can take out into the square and slurp in the shadow of the chateau.

Elio's Caffe: Yebisu Garden Place, 4-20-7 Ebisu, Shibuya-ku; tel: (03) 3444-4816. Open 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. daily.

More Italian openings: Il Pinolo has finally translated its continuing (and deserved) popularity into a gleaming new sequel. It's one of nine restaurants and one tea salon that occupy the 12 floors of the new Ginza Green building. The executive chef is Mario Fritolli, so expect similar standards of Tuscan cooking as at the Higashi-Azabu main restaurant. Too bad they can't duplicate that relaxing outside-patio ambience.

Look out for further spinoffs of the Il Pinolo name: A cake shop has already opened in the underground mall on the Yaesu side of Tokyo Station, as well as a Mario Gelateria in the basement of Isetan in Shinjuku.

Il Pinolo: Ginza Green 9F, 7-8-7 Ginza, Chuo-ku; tel: (03) 5537-0474. Open 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 5:30-10 p.m.; Saturday, Sunday and holidays, 11:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. and 5-10 p.m.


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