CONTRIBUTED BY SARRA MCMILLAN
Shintoshin is an area in Naha that has been culturally and socially created from land returned to Okinawa from the American military. The developer’s of Shintoshin imagined it as a new centre of Naha with a range of urban functions. My favourite urban function is the cute and classy, non-touristy eating establishments that are abundant in this slightly more expensive, but definitely more enjoyable, area of Naha City.
Cucina Café & Restaurant (or クッチーナ アメク in katakana) is an adorable Italian eatery, on the bottom floor of an eclectic building (think, trendy hair-studio and “European Sweets” home interiors), which is hidden behind the Rakuichi Shopping Centre. The inside looks like a a movie set, with black light fixtures and a perfectly-set up bar (unfortunately, I found myself here at lunchtime on a school day). Eating outside is also a possibility and would make for the perfect Okinawan hot summer evening, sipping cocktails and people-watching.
The lunch menu was simple, with a section each for pasta, pizza and fish. My co-worker and I both went with what seemed the most delicious on the menus, pasta with mushroom and pepperoni sauce (sorry, no pictures – devoured in a hurry!)
First, we were brought our beverages (hot or iced, tea or coffee), included in the price of our meal. Then, we were brought a salad with an amazing Italian dressing. After this, came the savoury soup in little, white cups on saucers.
Finally, came the main course, accompanied by a basket of bread. Feeling like royalty, we devoured the carb-filled feast in front of us. And, of course, no eating-out-excursion here in Japan is complete without a minature slice of cake. In a little glass showcase near the cashier, a selection of colourful desserts are available for consumption. I went with an apple-topped yellow cake and my co-worker chose something incredibly chocolatey. We ordered our desserts and expected to see them immediately, given the fact that they were obviously all ready to be eaten. However, Cucina is a classy place and they had to plate our confections!
Cucina had everything. The staff were helpful (for example, quickly translating the katakana we struggled with), the food was at once fulfilling and satisfying, while not sitting heavily in my stomach for the rest of the afternoon. The best part: I got iced coffee, salad, soup, bread, entrée, AND dessert for 1250¥ (less than 15 American dollars). The atmosphere is inviting but trendy and Cucina is totally worth the monorail ride off Kokusai into Shintoshin.
Cucina Cafe & Restaurant
Hours: Café Cucina is open at 11:00 and last order is at 22:00. From 11:00-15:00, lunch is served. Lunch service stops at 15:00, and from that time until 18:00, it’s café time! No real meals are served during this time, just drinks and desserts. Dinner is available from 18:00-22:00. Their menu is also available on their website (in Japanese).
Payment: I assume that they only accept yen, not credit cards or dollars.
Address 800-12 Ameku, Naha
Google Maps Coordinates: 26.2376708, 127.68620699999997
Directions: Coming down the 58, you will turn off the highway at the sign for Omoromachi Station. From here, drive past the first section of Rakuichi (Sports Depo and Ryubo) and then turn left, between the 1st and 2nd sections of the Rakuichi strip mall. If you go past Uniqlo, you’ve gone too far! Once you have turned left, you will drive towards one four-way stop and Cucina is on the right, on the bottom floor of the building that is on the corner of this intersection. There is also an access map on their website.