You may have heard of the term, Japanese Italian cuisine. At one extreme, it is putting Japanese ingredients into Italian recipes, like nori seaweed flakes on top of the pasta, having soy-infused sauces, and so forth. On the other end, it is more about designing menus, portion sizes, and styles that are more at tune with Japanese diners.
At Altezza, it is more at the softer end of the spectrum. The food does taste like genuine Italian cuisine, but with a Japanese touch. It is also suitable for families, couples, and groups alike, being mainstream dishes that don’t ruffle the feathers.
The restaurant is named after its location on the highest point of Hotaru Street (Firefly Street in English), so you get a view of the surrounding forests. Hotaru Street is known for two things. One is that you can ski right outside, making it a popular pitstop for lunches. Two, the delightful and eclectic range of intimate eateries here, not too many to bewilder you, but enough to give you something different each time over a week.
I had two opportunities to sample the fare here. Once in autumn, with a gregarious group of travel agents, enjoying the fun of grilling your own meat or seafood at the barbeque on the long dining table, and a second time in winter, in a small group, trying out the pizza and pasta. As large groups are seated in the lower section and smaller groups in the upper section, you can have a laugh without disturbing the conversation of others.
The setting of the restaurant is bright and airy, with a simple, almost Scandinavian feel to the wooden furniture. The high ceilings bring in the light, but not too much to be blinding, we had a few snowstorms when we dined in winter, but the warm fireplace kept us warm, along with the excellent range of Hokkaido wines.
While the prices are a bit higher than a salaryman’s lunch, the lunch set is excellent value. For just an additional ¥370, you can add a salad and dessert to your pasta main meal. The Tokachi Wagyu Minced Beef Bolognese with Eggplant and Mushroom ¥2020 is hearty and loaded with flavour, with its beef sourced locally on a farm nearby. Of course, if you have your own recipe, you can choose from the “make your own” menu, which allows you to mix and match different kinds of pasta, toppings, and sauces.
For dessert, try the Yuzu Sherbet, Tiramisu, Fondant Lava Cake, or Hokkaido Milk Ice Cream, all starting from a reasonable ¥550.