One of the newest international cuisine trends to catch the attention of American diners is itameshi. Boost sales, elevate dishes, and attract adventurous eaters with these tips for infusing a new style of fusion cuisine into your menu.

Meaning “Italian food” in Japanese, itameshi combines Italian and Japanese preparations and flavors. Another word associated with the global mashup is “wafu,” which translates to “Japanese style.” The Japanese have been cooking Italian food for decades, but the trend was slow to make it stateside.

Now, restaurants are creating their own spins on wafu cuisine, including Italian preparations for pasta, pizza, antipasti, salads, meat, and even desserts, with Japanese ingredients like fish, seaweed, soy sauce, and tofu. Noodles are usually at the center of the plate, but chefs continue to push the boundaries of creativity with this exciting fusion cuisine. Here are some examples of how itameshi can infuse your menu with creativity.

Otoshi Antipasti

If you’re just looking to test the waters with this new fusion trend to see how it plays on your menu, appetizers are a cost-effective, labor-saving way to begin. Take one element, build flavors from there, and serve it up on happy hour menus or as an LTO to see what guests like.

For example, start with an Italian classic like calamari and then bring in Japanese flavors, by infusing Asian Pride® Five-Spice Blend into the batter and serving it with Asian Pride Sweet and Sour Sauce and a spicy marinara. Or flip it the other way and start with a Japanese dish, like ramen, and incorporate Italian flavors like truffle or fire-roasted eggplant. Want to show off your juicy summer heirloom tomatoes? Serve up a classic caprese salad with silken tofu, fresh basil, Burrata, and a Japanese onion vinaigrette for a dish that is simple, yet addictive.

Making Mentaiko

One of the most common examples of the trend is a dish called tarako spaghetti (or a spicy version called mentaiko). This creamy pasta dish combines al dente spaghetti with salted pollock roe in a creamy sauce of soy sauce and butter, garnished with dried seaweed, shiso leaves, and scallions. Consider adding Asian Pride Soy Sauce and Asian Pride Sweet Chili Sauce to create a rich, umami flavor with some added kick to intrigue guests.

Another popular wafu pasta is kinoko, or mushroom pasta, which, like tarako spaghetti, builds flavor using butter and soy sauce, but in this version, there are garlicky, browned mushrooms to increase the umami levels. Shitake and enoki mushrooms would lend themselves well to the flavors here.

Napolitan pasta is another itameshi specialty. In it, you’ll find some combination of spaghetti, vegetables, hot dogs, and ketchup.

Japanese Pie

Some restaurants are now experimenting with a wafu-style pizza that is a bready, deep-dish pie with traditional toppings like pepperoni, and some more creative, such as mayo, edamame, and miso. A Roma® Pizza Crust and Roma Original Mozzarella cheese with a tomato sauce create the perfect base for this type of pizza pie. Add some grilled shrimp, roasted corn, crispy bacon, and top with a mayo drizzle for a culinary trip to Japan guests will crave.

Sweetly Fused

We can’t forget desserts! This is a great place to let your culinary creativity shine with this international fusion trend and test drive new flavors. If you want to start with a dish that appeals to most everyone, consider adding gelato to your menu. The sweet Italian treat is perfect for summer, and most consumers are familiar with it, and you can add in the Japanese twist by serving flavors like matcha, ube, wasabi, or even black sesame.

Want to get a little fancier? Collide the two culinary worlds with a bombolone. The sugar-rolled donut is traditionally served with Italian pastry cream, but you could fill it with a red bean paste and Roma Mascarpone, or mochi ice cream and serve it with a miso caramel dipping sauce for the best of both worlds.

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