Made in Japan: The Secrets of Tokyo Neapolitan-Style Pizza

Hailed as Tokyo's "prime minister of pizza," Susumu Kakinuma follows his own rules for making Neapolitan pies.



When Susumu Kakinuma couldn't find anyone in Naples to teach him how to make Neapolitan pizza, he taught himself - and invented his own rules that have influenced an entire generation of Japanese pizzaiolo.

Eater.com

As an aspiring pizza maker, Susumu Kakinuma, like many others, journeyed to Naples in the early 1990s to learn the fabled craft. “But I wasn’t able to study there,” the owner of the celebrated Seirinkan pizzeria in Tokyo, tells Eater.com.  “I couldn’t find any restaurants that would accept a foreigner like me. So I had to learn all by myself.”

By all accounts, Kakinuma figured it out just fine—and other Japanese pizza makers have been learning from him ever since. His pizza shop, a three-story, cathedral-like edifice with a spiraling staircase and wooden pews adorned with crucifixes, has thrived for 23 years and even earned AVPN accreditation. He’s in the vanguard of what Eater.com describes as “the new wave of Japanese pizza,” which the foodie site ranks “among the best Neapolitan pizza in the world.”

“For me, pizza is music,” Kakinuma, a drummer in his spare time, notes in an Eater.com video. “In both pizza and music, rhythm is most crucial. You can’t make good pizza or play good music without the correct rhythm. So for me, pizza and music are one and the same.”

Additional reading: How to get your Neapolitan pizza certified by AVPN

In fact, it was a disco-themed American movie, Saturday Night Fever, that set Kakinuma on his quest to create the perfect pie. “I was 18 or 19 years old,” he told Eater.com in 2017. “The first time I thought pizza looked amazing was in the scene where John Travolta is walking around. I mean, I know pizza is from Italy, but, damn, that looked good.”

Despite his shop’s official recognition by the super-picky AVPN, Kakinuma, hailed by CNN as Tokyo’s “prime minister of pizza,” is credited with developing the so-called “Tokyo Neapolitan” style of pizza, “defined by locally sourced wood burned in a locally sourced oven, an extra punch of salt and a delicateness of dough that extends to the tip of the fire-seared crust,” Eater.com reports.

Video: How to make Neapolitan-style pizza dough

Kakinuma offers just two versions of his famous pies: the Margherita and the Marinara. TimeOut.com notes the Margherita “is a long way from textbook,” bearing just a light smear of tomato sauce and a crust that’s “as light and chewy as freshly baked ciabatta, with a dusting of salt that makes each bite worth savoring.”

But Kakinuma notes that the Japanese are independent thinkers who follow their own rules. “Look, Japanese people are really free,” he tells Eater.com. “What I mean by that is, Japanese pray on New Year’s Day at a Shinto shrine, get married in a Christian church and hold their funerals at a Buddhist temple. They’re beholden to no single point of view.”

 

Edit Module

Tell us what you think at or email.

Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Related Articles

Little Caesars Franchisee Blames $5 Hot-N-Ready Deal for His Stores’ Demise

The chain won a prolonged battle with franchisee Alan Knox, but now there are no Little Caesars stores in Kansas City

Teenage Pizzeria Manager Drives 225 Miles to Deliver Pizza to Dying Man

Dalton Shaffer, 18, of Steve's Pizza told no one of his good deed for Rich Morgan, but the news went viral thanks to a Facebook post by Morgan's wife.

Your Pie Teams With Zapp's to Create Potato Chip-Topped Voodoo Pie

Just in time for Halloween, the limited-time signature pizza features Cajun ingredients and is topped with Zapp's Voodoo Potato Chips.

Lost Pizza Co. Feeds Hundreds of Hurricane Michael Survivors in Panama City, Fla.

The Deep South pizza chain's co-founders Brooks Roberts and Preston Lott organized relief efforts in two states.

Sex or Pizza? Man Who Has Eaten Cheese Pies For Dinner for 37 Years Has to Think About It

Mike Roman of Hackensack also likes peanut butter sandwiches for lunch - and nothing else.

Surviving the Winter: 7 Ways to Keep Pizzeria Sales Hot in Cold Weather

You can build up your wintertime pizza business through seasonal marketing and menu strategies.

Flippy the Robot Wows Baseball Fans With Fry-Cook Skills at Dodger Stadium

The robot can also flip burgers and scrub grills, posing a possible solution to a worker shortage in the restaurant industry.

Salary vs. Hourly: How to Pay Your Pizzeria's Managers

Members of PMQ's Think Tank swap tips for managers' salaries and hours they should work.

TripAdvisor Reveals Its List of America's 10 Best Pizzerias

Boston's Regina Pizzeria comes in at No. 1, but two Nashville restaurants also make the cut.

Donatos Pizza Partners With Artists to Create Airport Mural Celebrating Diversity

The mural, located in the John Glenn Columbus International Airport in Columbus, Ohio, features 88 pieces of original art.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags