There's a hidden Japanese Trattoria in Rome that may be one of the city's best

Jul 8 2024, 13:24
Tanuki, located in the Gazometro area of Rome, is a classic izakaya perfect for those craving traditional Japanese cuisine or looking to enjoy a Japanese-style aperitif

by Antonio Scarselli

It's true that sometimes we food and wine journalists are so busy churning out articles within the confines of the newsroom that, by the end of the day, we don't always feel like going to a restaurant, let alone hunting for hidden gems or newly opened spots. However, and we're not saying this to shirk our responsibilities, it's undeniable that some places go out of their way to remain undiscovered, almost taking perverse pleasure in blending in with forgettable restaurants and suburban bars. This is the story of Tanuki, an excellent izakaya in the Ostiense area that opened in February 2020, but which we are only telling you about now for the reasons mentioned above...

Tanuki, the hidden Izakaya

Situated at Via del Gazometro 36, Tanuki is nearly invisible except for an unlit lantern. This desire to blend in during an era of overexposure is intriguing. When asked why they don't light the lantern or use a more visible sign, Andrea Liguori, one of the four co-owners who splits his time between this location and another in the city center, explained that they initially considered it but were overwhelmed by the events since their opening in February 2020. Consequently, Tanuki opened just before the pandemic, temporarily closing shortly after.

Recovery after the Pandemic

Tanuki has managed to thrive, thanks to the dedication of its cohesive group of owners and perhaps a bit of luck associated with its name, which means raccoon dog—a Japanese mythical creature symbolizing fertility, abundance, luck, and sake! Alongside Andrea Liguori, the team includes Daniele Gennaro, Umberto Mottini, and Yasuyuki Morishita, who also co-owns the adjacent Sakana Sushi. Morishita is responsible for selecting the dishes, drawing from family traditions and his mother’s teachings in Okinawa. Tanuki's menu caters to various appetites and schedules, with spaces designed to accommodate guests' needs. To the right of the entrance is a bar counter with stools for drinks and a few tables for an informal aperitif or dinner.

The highlight, however, is the smaller, meticulously designed dining area with four tables for four, which can be divided for privacy using bamboo curtains. Panels adjacent to the tables can be adjusted to increase table space, making the room much more functional despite its size.

What to eat at Tanuki in Rome

The menu at Tanuki adapts to guests’ needs. For drinks, there are classic Japanese-inspired aperitifs like the yozumun spritz with yuzu liqueur or Tanuki's Negroni with etsu gin, campari, and barbera chinata, paired with small bites like yakitori. Recommended skewers include uzura bacon (quail eggs wrapped in bacon), tori kawa (chicken skin skewer), and tsukune (chicken meatballs). For dinner, substantial dishes include delicious meat and vegetable gyoza, essential tempura, and at least three "aghemono" (fried dishes) like tonkatsu (breaded pork cutlet with panko). In summer, udon is served with cold broth, and there are several yaki udon dishes with meat, fish, or vegetables.

Always check the daily specials board for unique items like breaded tuna bao, eel tempura, and okonomiyaki (a Japanese pancake with eggs and cabbage). Whether for an aperitif or a full dinner, Tanuki offers a welcoming, calm, and relaxed atmosphere. One minor critique is the tempura zucchini flowers stuffed with cacio e pepe cream; an izakaya of this calibre could do without such Roman nostalgia. However, this unsolicited advice can be taken or left by the chef.

The drinks menu features over 40 types of sake, carefully curated by Andrea Liguori, along with Japanese cocktails and spirits. The price is reasonable, with dinner costing around €40, excluding drinks.

Tanuki Izacaya - via del Gazometro, 36 - Roma - Tel. 0639733167 -

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