The city of Tsukuba has more restaurants for a city its size that probably any other city I ever been in. At least that's my impression anyway. So, what's one more restaurant in a city already loaded with good places to eat? I'm not one who frequently dines out (I'm rather partial to my wife's cooking, which not only is good but a lot less expensive!), and so there are lots of places I haven't eaten at yet.
Nevertheless, in my 18 years in Tsukuba, I have sampled a number of restaurants, and Arzonie Italia would certainly rank very high on my list. The food and service was excellent. Last week, my wife and I went both for lunch and for dinner, having a full course both times (not on the same day, however).
You can order a single dish and finish your meal fairly quickly, but this is a restaurant experience meant to be leisurely. The lunch menu is served from 11 am to 3 pm and consists mostly of pizza and pasta dishes (no hamburgers or hot dogs; after all, this is an Italian restaurant!) Prices are typically a bit over 1000 yen, and for an additional 450 yen, you can have the "full course", which, in addition to whichever main dish you order, includes a tasty "antipasti" (appetizer) before the meal and a cake of your choice plus coffee or tea.
I had a delicious pizza on "green" crust - a regular pizza crust with spinach added to it. It certainly sounds more healthy and if you were blindfolded, I doubt that you would be able to distinguish it from the regular pizza crust. The pizza was certainly much less greasy than the typical fast-food variety, and better tasting too. In addition to adding spinach to the crust, however, another thing that makes the food both fresh and wholesome is that they use only organically produced ingredients and they make all of their cheese, bread, cakes and ice cream right in the restaurant itself.
Speaking of cakes, they bake a variety of tempting cakes that you can also buy separately, without having to order a meal. You can even order a cake made to your own specifications for some special occasion. They just need a couple of days advanced notice to make sure they can get any special ingredients you might want included. They'll also be taking orders for Christmas cakes from Nov. 25, and you can be sure that they'll not be the typical Japanese Christmas Cakes of sponge cake, super-sweet white frosting and strawberries (unless, heaven forbid, that is your special order!) I found the cakes really delicious, without being too sweet.
The dinner experience is special too, as you are guided to a table by a waiter who will explain the various specials of the day for the 3 types of full course meals they offer. You can, of course, just order a pizza, spaghetti or something off the regular menu and then head off for a movie at the nearby "Tsukuba You World", but if it's a bit of a special occasion, you'll want to take in the full course. (And if it's a really special occasion, such as your wedding anniversary, they can make a special flower arrangement or other such special request if you call ahead. In fact, they can host a full wedding party or other such private affair.)
We had the mid-priced full course meal for 3300 yen (the other two are 2400 and 4200), and it began with an "hors d'oeuvre" (to mix languages), followed by a soup or salad with fresh-baked bread, a pasta dish and then the main meat dish, which on the day we were there included choices of lamb chops and broiled quail, among others. This, of course, is followed by your choice from among several desserts and coffees or teas. Be sure not to eat too much of that delicious Italian bread so as to have room for all that follows. They also have an excellent wine list, along with a variety of non-alcoholic drinks as well.
Arzonie Italia is definitely "foreigner friendly" for a variety of reasons. Number one is that it is the brainchild of our own Shani Yatabe (who handles the circulation for the Alien Times). Shani is British, but of Italian ancestry. In fact "Arzonie" is her maiden name. Even when she is not there, several of the Japanese staff can handle English adequately.
Arzonie Italia is located on "Tsuchiura-Noda Sen" (Route 354) a short distance west of "Tsukuba You World", the huge entertainment complex reported on in previous issues (you can view back issues on www.alientimes.org). The telephone number is 029-839-5388, and it is open daily from 11 am to 11 pm (with "last order" at 10:30). The spacious dinning area, including a few tables on the front patio, has about 120 seats.
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