Italian food is often a favourite amongst cosmopolitan Japanese diners, and any decent-sized city in Japan will have a whole host of Italian restaurants to choose from. Kumamoto, a city that prides itself on delicious food, is no different in this matter and as such has a vast number of Italian eateries. Right in the centre of the city you can find at least a dozen different Italian restaurants within a few minutes walk of each other…but which to choose? One top option is the Trattoria Rosso, located barely a minute’s walk away from the central Suidocho Tram Stop, where you can get a delicious, filling meal for a very reasonable price.
Trattoria Rosso is actually located right next door to another Italian restaurant (just in case you needed more proof of the prodigious number of Italian diners in Kumamoto) and in the end, we plumped for Rosso because of the English menu. As with many restaurants, the best deals can be found at lunchtime when almost every restaurant in town has a superb lunch course menu for you to choose from.
At Trattoria Rosso, there are various lunch courses available to suit your appetite, ranging from 1,050 yen up to 2,200 yen for the more ravenous patrons. Set lunches include items such as salad, a drink, bread or rice, and the more expensive lunch course includes dessert. As for the main dish, the courses vary in price as to whether you want pizza or pasta, or whether you’d like something from the fish and meat menu.
For set lunch pastas, options include spaghetti with pancetta and tomato sauce, spaghetti bolognese, penne arrabbiata, basil linguine and tuna with cream. There are several options on the fish menu, but in my opinion, the tastiest dishes are found on the meat menu. You can choose from grilled beef, grilled chicken, sausage and cheese, pork cutlet or lamb in mustard sauce. As you very rarely see lamb on Japanese menus or in the supermarket, I couldn’t pass up this opportunity to try it out.
Choosing the Lunch Set ‘A’, my meal started with soft, warm bread and a generous dollop of butter to go with it. The soup (which, on a set lunch menu, is usually watery and tasteless) was really delicious – the broth looked thin but it was flavoursome and filled with a hearty number of cut vegetables. The salad (again, not usually the crowning glory of a set lunch) was mouth-wateringly delicious. A few leaves of crisp, green lettuce topped with edamame beans, tuna and tomato in a citrus dressing – a unique, Japanese flavour. And the pièce de résistance, the lamb. Smothered in a thick, grainy mustard and red wine sauce, served with a spoonful of ratatouille-style vegetables, the lamb was tender and succulent. Finding such a rich, rare dish in Japan, even at an Italian restaurant, is no mean feat and it was savoured religiously. To finish off, a cafe au lait to complete a wonderful luncheon.
As well as the delectable lunch courses, the restaurant also boasts an A La Carte menu and a range of dinner-time courses. The evening sets range from 2,800 yen to 5,500 yen, with options for party-plan menus if you are booking along with several other guests, drinking options, assorted antipasti for take-out, and the Special Course (7,000 Yen) which is a fusion of Kumamoto and Italian foods and flavours. From the A La Carte menu, a few dishes to whet your appetite, horse meat carpaccio, grilled Kumamoto beef, pizza with lemon, clam spaghetti, affogato and tiramisu.
The restaurant itself reminded me of a quaint English tea house out in a countryside hamlet – plaid tablecloths and decorations in muted tones make for a relaxing atmosphere. The head waitress is a forward but friendly Japanese woman who speaks a bit of English and can help explain the menu if it’s not quite clear.
The Trattoria Rosso is but a stone’s throw from the centre of Kumamoto, yet being tucked down a quiet alley away from the hustle and bustle of the main road, it feels like a different world. The food was truly superb and the lunch course was very good value indeed – you can make it even better value by visiting the website and downloading a special coupon. If Italian is what you’re hankering for, look no further than Kumamoto’s Trattoria Rosso.