Mediterranean ambiance in Chatan's venerable ristorante

Mediterranean ambiance in Chatan's venerable ristorante

by Michael Flemming

I'd likely scoff at any restaurant or eatery in the States if it's name simply describes the category of food served. Have you seen the ubiquitous "Donuts" donut shop, or "Chinese" Chinese restaurant? These places abound in places like San Diego, northern Virginia, and every place in between. Such was my thought when first entering Italiano in the Hamby Town area of Chatan in central Okinawa.

Italiano is Japanese for Italian. It serves pizza, pasta, and other Italian dishes. The restaurant takes up the first floor storefront of the Sunset Building, a beat up old concrete structure that has endured for decades. As I enter I notice tiles from the storefront facade are falling into piles along the sidewalk.  The inside of Italiano is much more reassuring.  The color scheme within is a mixture of hues from the Italian flag with Mediterranean tiles here and there. There are 10 small tables within that for the most part fit four people each, but the tables themselves are quite small but quaint nonetheless.

I can order off of any Japanese menu as long as its not entirely in Kanji, but I appreciate an English menu to ensure I know what I'm ordering, both are available at Italiano. There's about two dozen spaghetti based pasta varieties available in two different sizes: 1.6mm or 1.4mm. There's also pizza, penne, ravioli, risotto, lasagna and doria. Nearly all of the spaghetti based entrees as well as the ravioli and penne are priced below 1.000 yen.  Nearly everything else is just over 1,000 yen to about 1,500 yen.  It's possible to eat reasonably robust meals at Italiano for a budget price, but I recommend making any chosen entree into a set for just 650 yen extra.  The set meal adds unlimited soft drinks and salad as well as soup, garlic bread and a slice of cake.  Lunch set specials are available each day until 15:00 except Sundays and Japanese holidays and include everything in the normal set except soup and cake for just 850 yen.

My wife and I recently chose the spicy tomato sauce with cheese pasta  set and the bell pepper and bacon pasta with spicy garlic sauce.  The cozy Mediterranean inspired decor made for an intimate lunch as we dined alone for the first time in a long time, but only because our son was outside playing with the piles of tiles along the exterior of the building. Italiano prides itself on creating and preparing the pasta freshly once ordered, but the meal is still served very quickly, usually within 10-15 minutes which is about how long it takes to build a salad at the salad bar then eat it. I found the pasta to be tender with the spicy garlic sauce complimenting the texture and freshness of the noodles and blending a contrast to the crispness of the bell peppers. My wife found her pasta to be quite spicy, but still enjoyed the freshness of the noodles, noting that it was better than other restaurants nearby where the spaghetti is slick and tasteless as if it has a coat of water.

Italiano is located in Hamby Town, the nickname for the area of Chatan that was once a part of the Hamby U.S. Army Airfield. The easiest way to locate this landmark restaurant is to go one block west from the intersection of Routes 58 and 130 in Chatan, then turn left (south) where Route 130 dead ends  The restaurant will be on the right, across the street from a Marue Department Store. Araha Beach can be seen behind the building.  Italiano is open daily from 11:30 ~ 23:00.  Major credit cards and Japanese yen are accepted.



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