There’s something magical about dining at a pizza parlor. Nearby tables entertain themselves with playful banter as they dine. Red pepper and parmesan cheese shakers abound. A salad bar waits. Sodas are in plastic tumblers fizzing to the top. Most of all there will be more pizza than if ordering takeout, and it’s that much more special since it didn’t come to you but you came to it.
Restaurant Pizza In captures that magic with its throwback American style pizza parlor atmosphere offering traditional pizza fare and Japanese style pizza as well. The name itself seems to be a familiar franchise from the 1960s that’s missing its last consonant (to form the word “Inn”), but it’s not a knock off– as far as I can tell. The music heard overheard at a pleasant but low volume is purely 1980s while a centrally located jukebox for display only is a really old and large 1950s looking machine. The tables, chairs and booths are reminiscent of the 1970s –oversized stiff red plastic cushioned booths. The prices are, well, 1990s-ish. The buffet is 980 yen or U.S. $9.50 per person.
The first thing I notice when walking in to Pizza In – aside from the décor, the price, the music, the name - is that its buffet offers a wide variety of pizza. Teriyaki pizza, seafood pizza, barbecue pizza, and eggplant pizza are available right next to favorites like cheese, pepperoni, and pineapple sausage. Buffets are often a budget pinchers alternative to higher priced better food, but Pizza In’s specialty pizzas look as good as Japanese rivals that charge north of 2,000 yen for what Americans would consider one medium pie. The buffet also includes spaghetti, taco rice, salad, curry rice, soup, tea, soft drinks, crushed ice drinks and cupcakes. A few other selections are available a la carte only such as french fries and tacos for 300 to 600 yen.
The pizza and salad are superb. All of the varieties are prepared on a thin crust that gives just a little bit of a crunch upon biting into it. The cheese is mozzarella that isn’t extremely generous put sufficient to allow the tomato sauce and toppings to complement each other. A mark of any good salad bar is a fresh and wide variety of selections that are well stocked and segregated from cross contamination – and my own salad favorite of baby corn - which Pizza In's selections mimic well.
The restaurant is very popular with local Okinawans and Americans living nearby, as well as tourists flocking to the Sunabe Seawall. It is strategically located at the intersection of Route 58 in Chatan that is the gateway to the Sunabe diving culture hub, so well located that most directions to the seawall include “turn left at the intersection where Pizza in is.” The children's buffet is priced on a mysteriously discounted scale depending on age. You could pay more for a pizza experience, but unless you are looking for a deeper dish, it likely won’t be as fun and fulfilling as I found Pizza In to be.