Azabu-Juban: Pizzeria
Strada (Azabu-Juban: Pizzeria)
Open 5-10:30pm (Sat, Sun noon-10pm) daily.
Sun: Open Sundays

Pizza Strada's hulking, riveted-metal pizza oven is a steampunk work of art. Sitting just behind the main counter area, it provides customers with a ringside view of their pizzas as they're fired up and acts as a natural center of attention in the busy dining room.

The pizzas baked in that oven are first-rate, and have won international recognition from overseas pizza critics who judge such things. The Cinque Formaggi Red (smoked mozzarella, pepperoni, red cheddar, gorgonzola, taleggio, pecorino) is probably our favorite cheese pizza in town, delivering a fantastic mix of flavors.

Strada's more than two dozen varieties range from the relatively simple (Buffalo mozzarella margherita) to more elaborate creations like the magnificent Wagyu Beef (minced wagyu, red cheddar, Pecorino, red onions, mushrooms, jalapenos). Crusts are satisfyingly chewy, with more char than average. You can fine-tune your pizzas with add-on toppings, and use chili oil or red-pepper flakes to spice things up.

Prosciutto Mousse Bruschetta makes an appealing starter - umami-rich but light enough not to inhibit pizza consumption. Marinated Five Mushrooms and Caprese are other appetizing options, both simple dishes that benefit greatly from the use of top-grade fresh ingredients.

Rounding out the menu are a half dozen salads, plus meat and cheese platters to go with drinks. Among desserts, the hand-made Almond & Pistachio Semifreddo is a real standout and is highly recommended.

If you're in the mood for a bottle of wine there are a couple dozen to choose from, plus seven wines poured by the glass. Wines are mainly Italian and French but with a few from Germany, California and Japan. Bottles start at around Y5,000 and glasses at under Y1,000. There's also a page of extra-special splurge wines, mostly in the Y30,000-50,000 range, for when you want an extra-special splurge.

Service is friendly and efficient. In addition to the comfortable, lively main dining room there's also a big outdoor terrace, with slightly earlier hours. Lunch is served only on weekends and holidays, but the restaurant is open all afternoon on those days.

by Robb Satterwhite

Minato-ku, Azabu-Juban 3-6-2.

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Venue listing from Bento.com5 Star Rating: highly recommended