Il Gusto Dolce Vita, Iidabashi

Japanese food is great, but I do love cheese. And I miss it here. If you are not okay to purchase super over priced imported cheese at one of Tokyo’s international supermarkets, this city is a hard one for cheese lovers. And leaves one with the following choices: Change your diet and give cheese up. Eat Japanese camembert. (If you are Italian, French and/or a real cheese foodie, this is not an option.)

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I was about to break with my cheese habits, when I discovered “Il gusto Dolce Vita” in Iidabashi. The small shop on the ever- lively Kagurazaka street sells everything from Italian wine to delicatessen specialties which include all kinds of pasta, a huge selection of olive oils, pickled vegetables and Italian coffee. And yes: Cheese!

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Asiago (a tasty soft cheese from Venice region and my personal favorite), Parmesan, Ricotta, Grana Padano, Gorgonzola, Mozzarella di buffala….Prices are more than fair (250 grams of Asiago is ¥771, Grana Padano ¥771, Parmesan from ¥1144).

If you are still not convinced: Every day there is a free food and wine tasting taking place. Most of the customers are locals, shop staff Yoshiko Kondo explains: “Japanese come for the wine, and the French for the cheese”.

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Il gusto Dolce Vita opened only last December, but has a long history. It all started with a small company called “Japan Salt” , which imported salt from all over the world, particularly salt from Sicily. With the time passing some more Italian products were added to the selection with cheese becoming by far the bestseller.

It is best to avoid the weekend where the shop gets rather busy, instead stop by on a Thursday: Not only has the staff more time to provide advise (they can explain in great detail the nuances of all of the cheeses), but that’s also the day when the fresh Mozzarella and Gorgonzola arrive by air straight from Italy.

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A must try is the balsamic vinegar “Aceto Balsamico di Modena” from Giuseppe Giusti (250 ml is ¥1286). It is served in small cups with sparkling water – something I had never tried before – which eases the acid, but intensifies the sweet taste.

Be prepared to leave the shop with a bag full of delicacies. It happened to me when all I wanted to buy was a small packet of espresso.

The Deets

Address: Kagurazaka Street, 6-8-30, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, Japan

Phone: 03-3235-7780

Hours: Open daily from 11am to 8pm