Italian / French, Gourmet Guide

No matter if it is a ristorante (fancy restaurant), a trattoria (diner), or a pizzeria (pizza place), in Japan, Italian restaurants are all referred to as "Italian." In the same way, no matter if it is a fine restaurant or a bistro (diner), food establishments that serve French cuisine are all referred to as "French."

For both Italian and French restaurants, there are some ultra-expensive options, but there are also casual places that are reminiscent of izakaya. There are only few chain restaurants. Most are individual restaurants where the owner has hired a chef, although popular restaurants might open a second or third branch in a different area. The names of some chefs are known all over Japan, and to make a reservation in a famous restaurant you sometimes have to wait one or two months. Usually when Japanese people go to a fancy French or Italian restaurant, it is for a special occasion. They go there when they want to make it a special day, such as for an extraordinary date, an anniversary, the birthday of a loved one, or as a treat after completing some trial. Some restaurants have a dress code, but even if they do not, when going to a French or Italian restaurant, Japanese people like to dress up a little. Most chefs are natives or people who trained in famous restaurants in Japan, which is why the quality of the food is as good as local cuisine. There are also many restaurants which are famous for cooking with local vegetables, for using game meat, or for their special wine and desserts. Many pizzerias have huge pizza ovens. Very expensive restaurants have sommeliers who can recommend a wine that matches your food. Most restaurants are open for lunch (about 11:30 to 14:00) and in the evening (from about 17:00) for dinner. During the time between lunch and dinner, they are closed. As dinner and lunch courses are fixed, it's easy to order. At least that's how it works in most restaurants in Japan. But even if there is a set course menu, if there is also an a la carte menu, you can order whatever you like. An Italian course menu usually consists of an appetizer, some pasta, a main dish of fish or meat, cheese or a dessert, and coffee or tea. A French course menu usually consists of an appetizer, a soup, a fish dish, a meat dish, a dessert, and drinks. Some restaurants will have various dishes you can choose from for each course. If you go to a restaurant together with at least one other person, most restaurants will let you order two different course menus, and will be willing to make arrangements if you tell them that you want to share them. In most restaurants, when you have finished your meal, you call the server who will then give you the bill.

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