In the slightly adulterated words of Ferghal Sharkey, "A good Italian these days is hard to find." In the realm of dining Italian, experiences in Japan are pretty disappointing. But on entering any restaurant for the first time it's requisite to be open-minded, and in this frame we embarked on Hiroo's premium Italian establishment, Il Cenetta. The attractive, yet shadowy, ambiance is created by the absence of overhead lights, with candle-light competing with deep mahogany for precedence. We headed for the window, entering an enclosed terrace that extends onto the pavement, which had the names of dishes and wines painted on in a loose, unceremonious, script. In the very convivial setting we ordered a carafe of the decent house red (JY1300), the mushroom pizza (10-inch, JY1670) and a special of Gorgonzola and Parmesan penne (JY1220).
On arrival, the pizza appeared so dwarfed by the plate that we had to check that the correct order had been delivered. It had. Rather than the feast of varieties that we had expected, the topping was simply a standard smattering of vegetables. Each slice drooped as it should, though, and the dough of the thin crust was tasty enough and nicely crisped at the edge.
The pungent wafts of the pasta, of more ample proportions, reactivated our taste buds. Fork and spoon in hand, the full taste of each cheese was apparent; the Gorgonzola satisfying the full length of the tongue and then kicking in at the back of the mouth before the smooth Parmesan dominated to the finish. The penne was tender with a distinctive wheaty flavor, and the tubes remained firm in the addictive thick sauce. Our plate was polished by the end.
The tiramisu (JY500), surely the standard by which Italian chefs are judged, narrowly defeated a sesame sherbet in the dessert stakes. If you like your cakes cheesy then this is perfect-a dense layer of soft cheese with a delicate hint of rum and a strong, rich chocolate dusted top. It gave us the chance to reminisce about the great tiramisus we've eaten in the past, and, though different, rivaled the very best.