12 Apr,2018 By Jagabond
“You know how kids dream of being soccer players or actors? Well, my dream was to be a sushi chef.” – Nobu Matsuhisa
Dreaming of sushi? Maybe that’s what I was doing. How else could I explain taking another chance on a European sushi restaurant. Sushi on this continent typically disappoints me. I can think of few occasions where I left satiated, and I never recall leaving impressed. So why put myself through this again? I kept reading positive reviews on a restaurant called ‘Japit‘, a creative word mashup of ‘Japan’ and ‘Italy’. Situated only an hour north of me in Benevento, I drove there one Friday evening when my craving for raw fish was overwhelming.
Like most cities in Italy, you can’t even walk to a restaurant without passing some Roman ruins. Shown below is the Arch of Trajan. Made of limestone and marble, this 2nd century arch celebrates the life of Emperor Trajan. There were some lousy do-nothing Roman emperors, but Trajan seemed relatively productive. He not only oversaw the greatest military expansion in Roman history, but also championed various infrastructure and social welfare projects. The arch is beautiful, particularly at night when capturing the accidental stream of street lights through its center.
Now back to the sushi. The restaurant is located a block past the Arch of Trajan. A beautiful wooden interior greets you as you enter. The counters, chairs and tables are all made from a light wood which differentiates it well from the typical Italian restaurants in the region.
I also liked the cool presentation of the chopsticks, set with their tips resting on a stone. Even though I never mastered the art of chopsticks, this showed the owner took great care in how each table placing looked.
The owner, Mario, is the passion behind the restaurant. Italian born, he spent years living in Japan developing a love for the art of sushi. His restaurant focuses on traditional, not gimmick sushi. You won’t find spider or tiger rolls, and don’t expect the spicy mayo ponzu sauce you get in California. The emphasis here is on high fish quality, pleasant atmosphere and excellent service. I took Mario’s recommendations throughout dinner. He started me off with Japit’s traditional sushi plate.
Everything was incredible, but the blue fin tuna was the Hope Diamond of sushi. I never had fish so tender that it melted in my mouth. Also noticeable was the lack of that fishy taste that turns so many off, or indicates bad fish. Mario could tell I liked it, and suggested a roll of tuna next. I tried to keep my composure eating at a steady pace, but the six pieces quickly became zero.
After all this I was still hungry. Upon hearing this Mario became more adventurous with his last two selections. First up was the sea urchin roll, with a mustard yellow hue to it. He told me eating this was like ‘tasting the sea’. He was right, as the light hit of salt water surprised my mouth. It wasn’t too much, but just enough to be different.
After the salty, I closed with the sweet. I guess my dessert, in essence, was an eel roll with a sugary barbecue glaze. This was a perfect contrast to the sea urchin roll, and a fine closing to my epic meal.
Bottom line: The sushi was the star of the show, but Mario was the playwright. He even educated me on the proper way of dipping the fish into the soy sauce. Bringing traditional Japanese sushi to the Campania region is a novel idea, and I hope it works out. This is some of the best sushi I’ve ever had in my life.
Details: From downtown Naples the drive can be up to ninety minutes without traffic, depending on which route you choose. Japit doesn’t have many tables and can get quite busy. I recommend either showing up right when they open at 8:00, or making reservations at +39 347-515-2491.