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Napolitan: Casual Spaghetti Dish Said to Have Originated in Japan

When we hear spaghetti, we associate it with Italy. However, we also know of a spaghetti dish that is said to have originated in Japan. This indeed is that Napolitan (sometimes spelled Naporitan or Neapolitan), a tomato flavor spaghetti that uses tomato ketchup. Photo:


What is Napolitan?


It is a dish of spaghetti that is stir-fried with vegetables such as bell peppers and onions, as well as sausage or ham and seasoned with tomato ketchup. It is a pasta dish that has been popular from long ago among children and adults alike. It is a standard dish that is often offered as a light meal, in cafes in Japan and it is a casual western-style dish that can be made at home.

Additionally, the restaurants that offer it have their own variation of toppings they use in the dish so it is a kind of cooking that shows the unique style of each restaurant that serves it.


The History of the Napolitan


The story that is most commonly believed is that the traditional western-style restaurant in Yokohama Hotel New Grand was where the Napolitan originated. Post World War II, Shigetada Irie, the second generation head chef of the restaurant was inspired by spaghetti eaten by the foreign military; it was seasoned simply with salt and pepper and ketchup. However, it did not use tomato ketchup as the dish we eat today does. It used tomato sauce instead. Thus, the Napolitan as we know it today, which uses ketchup, is said to have originated in Yokohama’s Center Grill, a traditional western-style restaurant.


The following stores are recommended to enjoy the nostalgic flavors of Japanese cooking in Tokyo.

1. Spaghetti Pancho


This is a spaghetti restaurant with several branches in Tokyo and neighboring areas. They strive to offer the nostalgic style of Napolitan. They not only offer sumptuous and dynamic Napolitan dishes topped with hamburg steak or breaded fried shrimp, but also offer simple dishes like meat-sauce spaghetti (bolognaise). 


2. Japone


This is a spaghetti restaurant located in Ginza icchome, with only counter seating. It was established in 1980. There are 3 size portions offered on the menu, the standard, large, and yokozuna (extra large). It simply looks very filling. Other than the Napolitan, they offer mentaiko (cod roe), ume-nori (sour plum and seaweed), kimchi (Korean style spicy pickle) and other varieties of spaghetti dishes. On weekdays around lunchtime, you will see many working men seated shoulder to shoulder in the crammed counter seats, helping big scoops of spaghetti from the generous portions on their plates to their mouths. Information: Map


3. Café Terrace Pont Neuf


This is a traditional café in Shimbashi. You will see people lined up to get in around lunchtime on weekdays. Among the dishes on the menu, the “Hamburg Spaghetti” which serves the Napolitan and hamburg steak as a set, and the “Pont Neuf- burg” are particularly popular. The thicker style noodle that is well seasoned with ketchup has a chewy texture that’s satisfying. The retro style interior is also an appeal of this café. Information: Map


Try Making the Napolitan!

Lastly, we would like to take the opportunity to teach you how to make the Napolitan. It is a dish you can easily make with ingredients you have at home so why not take the opportunity to make it for yourself.  

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About the author

I'm interested in general in all things related to culture and fine arts with a focus on movies, art, and design. I hope to introduce to many people all the different sides to Japan in regards to Japanese culture.

View all articles by KAWATA