CONTRIBUTED BY CHRISTOPHER DONG
I’m reeling. Knocked back, about to fall off my stool. Wafts of crackling wood, stewed tomatoes, shaved garlic, minty basil, and fresh-risen dough swirl around in my skull. It should be illegal for pizza to BE this good. Taste, texture, aroma, presentation, to “be” is the only way to express what an experience this has been. I’m wary to gush about things. In fact, most people tell me I’m a complete miser when it comes to what I consider good food, hiding recipes in various corners of the house, releasing little, hoping never to compromise all. Bacar, though, everyone must try.
We passed by the storefront down a dark alley in the middle of Naha. Entranced, Bacar’s glowing neon yellow sign drew us in, and the lively, toasty interior swayed us to stay. We entered the European windowed doors; to the left were old theater seats bolted firm to antique sewing tabletops. To the right stood a giant iron oven, bundles of chopped wood stacked underfoot. Someone ran, literally sprinted, across the floor to greet us. We were lucky, having stopped by just before the dinner rush, and were shown to the bar, set beside a glass-encased workstation. Nakamura Daisuke, owner and pizza chef extraordinaire, passed us handwritten menus. Japanese/Italian, hmm… this should be interesting.
Bevande? A chilly glass of freshly tapped Hoegaarden, and blood orange juice for my friend. L’antipasto? Sautéed broccoli and garlic, tomato marinated tripe, and to cool off, buffalo caprese.
Il Primo? Main event. Daisuke tested the stove, casting a pinch of salt into its glowing mouth with a snap and pop. Not yet. Slide in another log, wait a few minutes, and test again. Have you ever seen a sumo-wrestling match, in which giants of the ring fling handfuls of white salt to purify the bout, ceremoniously cuffing their hips, evoking a sense of powerful tradition? Daisuke did the same with as much flair, signaling that what was about to happen could easily overwhelm the same arena. A yeasty round of creamy white dough was carefully lifted from its wooden proofing box, tossed gently onto the floured marble workspace. As if nothing else mattered, Daisuke teased and stretched the dough into a perfect pie, swiftly dressing our margherita pie to the nines with pungent tomato sauce, freshly pulled mozzarella, and hand-torn basil. A quick pour of floral olive oil, salt, and Daisuke cleanly lifted his creation onto a long-handled peel. No sticking, no mess… he’s done this before.
Daisuke slid the pie into the sweltering heat of the oven, turning every few seconds while the crust rose and the dressing bubbled. Quick as it had entered, the now beautiful pizza was pulled out, landing squarely on a clean bone-white plate.
The same fellow who had ran to show us our seats now stood waiting next to the oven, crouched, grabbing the plate as soon as the pizza hit, dashing round the business end of the bar, and proudly placed it in front of us, announcing, “marugarita pizza desu!”
Let me take an aside and let the readers know that there is a supremely wrong way to cut this magnificent display of craftsmanship, and that is to dully drag your knife across the pie, taking everything else along with it, leaving a barren flat of naked bread. After closely inspecting the serrated and beveled utensil, patrons will find that clean cuts are only accomplished with calculated rocking motions, tip to mid-knife, watch your fingers in the sauce. Though if alone, damn the rules and have at it with a fork!
Each creased slice was debilitating; the smoky crust crisp, yet chewy, the dressing a perfect combination of tangy sauce, oil herb-infused soup, and buttery cheese. Savor it, because my floating sense of elation was rudely and abruptly halted with the sight of our empty plates. I searched franticly for a remaining floret of broccoli, a last pull of crust, something to mop up the little ounces of sauce left. She said I was desperate.
Ok then, another pie? No, the buzz is just right. Let’s Il Dolce and run.
Hours: Mon Closed
Tue – Fri 11:30-13:30
Tue – Sun 18:00-22:30
Pay: Yen, Credit Card
Menu: Japanese/Italian and English
Directions: From Camp Kinser front gate, turn right onto the 58. Continue South to Naha, passing Tomari Port entrance to your right. Turn left onto 222 Ichigin Dori. Continue straight, pass one signal intersection, crossing a bridge, and turn right immediately before the elementary school yard. Continue straight through the first intersection, turn left at the next. Ample parking is available just past Bacar.
This post was featured in Stripes Okinawa!