When I travel to Japan, I get really excited about food, and it's not always about Japanese food in the traditional sense. Italian food in Japan, for example, is both delicious and unlike Italian food in any other country. I love it!
One of my favorite places to eat Japanese food in Japan is Saizeriya. Saizeriya is a chain of restaurants serving cheap Italian food that has locations all over the country. I first discovered it as a homesick wayfaring fifteen-year-old and have thought of it as the ultimate Japanese comfort food restaurant ever since!
Saizeriya serves Italian food, but with the fun Japanese slant that most Japan-based Italian restaurants provide. For example, I rarely, if ever, see doria, hamburg, or squid-ink black pasta in American-based Italian restaurants.
Food at Saizeriya is undeniably consistent. When I confessed my love of Saizeriya to a Japanese friend, he said "You know that they don't do any cooking back there, right? All the food is pre-packaged." I was pretty sure this was the case already, and to be honest with you, I couldn't care less! Saizeriya is hardly the only affordable Italian food chain to be serving up pre-packaged food (Olive Garden, anyone?), and there are some significant benefits to doing so. After all, when you eat on Saizeriya, you know exactly what you'll be getting, because the dishes are always the same. You also have the benefit of knowing how many calories are in each dish you order!
But let's talk about the food itself. It is... really tasty! My personal favorites are the salads, which are always very fresh (as are all salads in Japan) and have very tasty dressings (the vinagrettes are especially yummy). I also love the pasta dishes- the spaghetti with cream sauce is particularly comforting and tasty- and the pizzas and gratins are delicious too!
Because I am vegetarian, I have never ordered any of the meat dishes, but folks I've dined with have, and they found them to be very tasty. Suffice it to say that the food is delicious. Surely the photos show that it looks alright, too!
The Saizeriya Menu
The Saizeriya menu is super foreigner-friendly, featuring both illustrative photos and English captions. One thing that I love about it is that all of the dishes come with a note on the number of calories they contain... which I love knowing. Because the serving sizes are just right for one person, you'll also find that the calorie count is by no means astronomical! You'll have plenty of room for dessert... or one of the tasty appetizers... or a zesty salad!
If you would like to see the Saizeriya menu in greater detail, have a look at the photos I snapped of it.
Ordering at Saizeriya
When you arrive at Saizeriya, wait in the front to be seated. A waiter will arrive and ask you if you would prefer to sit in the smoking or non-smoking section of the restaurant. If you don't no any Japanese, just point away from the smoking section or use some sign language to indicate where you would like to sit (e.g. pretend to smoke, then make an "x" with your arms).
When you've chosen something to order, push the green button sitting at your table and a waiter will come to your table to take your order. If you can't order in Japanese, just being polite and pointing to the dishes you want will suffice.
Non-alcoholic / non-special drinks at Saizeriya are a self-service deal, so after you've ordered, you can grab some glasses of water or tea at the drinks station and bring them back to your table.
When your food arrives, a waiter will curl the receipt for what you ordered into a plastic tube on your table. When you are finished with your meal and ready to go, bring the paper to the cash register in the restaurant and pay there.
I hope you like it!
Saizeriya isn't amazing... it's just a fun, family-style, cheap Italian food chain. Eating there is fun for me because the food is inexpensive, tasty, and consistent, and when I eat there, I'm surrounded by families, students, and friends grabbing an informal meal, which is a fun way for me to get a slice of normal Japanese life.
If you ever find yourself hankering for a no-hassle bowl of pasta or comforting meal while traveling in Japan, I hope you give Saizeriya a try. And if you've ever been to one, let me know what you think of it in the comments!
Yvonne Teo from Singapore on December 10, 2016:
We have it in Singapore too! I have to agree that it is very affordable & yummy Italian fast food.
Simone Haruko Smith (author) from San Francisco on January 07, 2013:
Yay!! Glad to find another Saizeriya fan!
At on December 31, 2012:
Love Saizeriya! Favorite restaurant in Japan~
angel desamito on November 27, 2011:
i love gratin in saizeria japan... really delicious and so affordable. also i love the drink bar...
FloraBreenRobison on October 11, 2011:
Italian food in Japan? Really? wow.
Brenda Barnes from America-Broken But Still Beautiful on October 11, 2011:
This sounds like fun eating, reminds me of college. Oh, to travel all the world is my dream. When I am there in Japan eating and pointing, I shall think of you Simone.