Gakugei-Daigaku has boomed in recent years, with small, mid-range restaurants flourishing on the small streets just outside of the station. One of these is Atsu Atsu Ri Carica, a small natural wine bar-meets-inventive Italian gastropub. The name is a combination of the Japanese ‘atsu atsu’, meaning both ‘piping hot’ and ‘madly in love’, and the Italian ‘ricarica’, ‘to recharge’ or to ‘rewind’. The idea, in short, is to keep things close, intimate and leave you feeling very genki (happy and alive).
The owner, being part Italian himself, rolls with the Italian idea of what is good food: a few simple but good ingredients, dressed up with the bare minimum yet make them shine precisely through that. Add in a little extra Japanese precision, local ingredients, and a flair for plating, and you have yourself some of the area's most interesting dishes.
The menu changes along with the seasons, but their staple ‘cacao risotto’ should be available whenever you go. Made with the rice leftover after making narezushi (fermented sushi) and topped with cacao from Peru’s Amazon, it has the smoothness characteristic of risotto, but with a tangy bite. It’s a dish you’re more likely to savour spoon by spoon than wolf down, and you’ll definitely need a glass of their grand selection of natural wines to go with it.
Considering its humble size, Atsu Atsu Ri Carica is best for smaller groups or pairs, with couples and those figuring things out probably best suited to the whole atmosphere. Have some wine, order some dishes, and see if things progress to the next level.