A long-time center of culture and religion, Kyoto is known for its fine dining Japanese cuisine. If you’re tired of Japanese food in this city or want to try something different, here are some of the best Italian restaurants in town.
This restaurant was opened by Japanese-Italian celebrity chef Salvatore Cuomo, whose work has been largely responsible for the rise in popularity of Italian food in Japan. Located opposite the Kyoto Tower, you can enjoy a gorgeous view of the city’s modernistic downtown area from The Kitchen Salvatore Cuomo, a far cry from the historical buildings it is renowned for. The restaurant serves authentic Italian cuisine, echoing back to Chef Salvatore’s training in his childhood in Italy and his culinary school education. However, he uses local ingredients for a tang of Japanese flavors.
Kiyomizu dera near The Sodoh Higashiyama Kyoto | Bong Grit/Flickr
The Sodoh Higashiyama Kyoto
You’ll be forgiven for mistaking The Sodoh Higashiyama for a Japanese restaurant; after all, it is housed in a machiya, a traditional kind of Japanese house common in Kyoto. Located in the countryside just outside of Kyoto’s city center, Sodoh Higashiyama is surrounded by nature, a theme the restaurant makes use of in its century-old high wooden beams and wide windows that let in the light. Enjoy a meal of delicious Italian fare in this lovely, ambient environment where you feel at one with nature. Their menu changes monthly, according to the ingredients available locally in each season.
Appearances are deceiving, and if you judge Clementia by its tiny size and home-run appearance you will be much mistaken. This restaurant is a Bib Gourmand holder – a recognition that it offer good food at moderate prices, awarded by the Michelin Guide. Like many restaurants in the area, both Japanese or otherwise, Clementia makes use of local and seasonal ingredients to ensure the freshness and quality of their food. Located near the Kyoto Imperial Palace and Kyoto International Manga Museum, this store may be easy to miss but it will doubtlessly give you an unforgettable meal.
With an exterior of a tradtional machiya, and a classy contemporary interior, Ristorante Italiano Chimera serves Italian cuisine that is inspired by Japanese ingredients and flavors. It is a local favorite for special occasions and dates. This is due to the high quality of their food and its artful and deliberate presentation, a feature highly valued in Kyoto’s cuisine. It is located in Gion, the historical district where geishas were trained, and one of the most popular tourist destinations in Kyoto due to its beautiful environs. End your day of visiting Gion and the nearby temples with this delicious Italian meal in a comfortable environment.
Located in Gion is Il Ghiottone, a famous establishment well-renowned for their spare-no-expenses Italian cuisine. The food is incorporated with Japanese characteristics for a lighter taste, as light and delicate flavors are highly prized in Kyoto cooking. Indeed, even the appearance of the dishes is somewhat reminiscent of kaiseki, which emphasizes the way food is presented. Il Ghiottone has a great wine list, with labels imported mostly from Italy and France. The Yasaka-no-to Pagoda is clearly visible from the restaurant, making for a tastefully Kyoto view whether during the day or night.
Centrally located near the Kamo River and the Imperial Palace, this secluded restaurant is marked by the giant red, white and green Italian flag outside their door. Opened by Italian chef Marco, this cozy shop has the same warm and friendly vibe as many bistros in Italy and serves honest, authentic Italian cuisine. Unlike many Italian restaurants in Kyoto, La Mano di Marco uses heavy sauces and seasoning, which makes their food more appetizing to a Western palate, or for those looking for an authentic Italian meal.
Located in a machiya in the quiet neighborhood a stone’s throw away from the Kyoto Imperial Palace, this house restaurant has a traditional storefront and has retained the townhouse’s interior of wooden beams and paper screens. Likewise, the Italian fare they serve uses light seasoning and fresh ingredients, principles valued in Japanese cooking. Opened by Japanese chef Mizutani Kenta, Cucina Italiana Toudou was founded with the aim of creating a sophisticated and quiet trattoria where people can spend a comfortable night out with good food and an atmospheric environment.
Located in the Hyatt Regency Kyoto, Trattoria Sette is a place that serves simple yet delicious Italian fare. As with many Japanese establishments, their Italian dishes are generally lighter than those in Europe, but Trattoria Sette does so without sacrificing the rich flavors of Italian cuisine. With its classy setting and view of the hotel garden, Trattoria Sette is a great place to have a comfortable and delicious meal.
It’s hard finding an affordable restaurant in Gion, especially one that serves Western food, so thank goodness for Rigoletto. Located in one of the narrow alleys off the main street, Rigoletto has a classy, upscale bar environment housed in an oriental-looking wooden townhouse. Little known by travelers but often frequented by locals, they serve classic Italian cuisine that is unpretentious and delicious. Being a bar, they also have a wide range of drinks available, both alcoholic or non-alcoholic.
A departure from classic Italian cuisine, 245 Gion is a fusion restaurant that combines the best of Italian dishes and Japanese food, in particular kaiseki, the cooking style native to Kyoto. Local ingredients are not only used but are featured heavily in their dishes, and are combined with Italian staples; for example angel hair pasta can be served with fresh salmon roe and seaweed. Their menu changes according to seasonal availability of vegetables and other ingredients. With the beautiful presentation of the food – another kaiseki speciality – you can enjoy the taste of modern Kyoto, a fusion of Japanese and Western elements.