March 24, 2023

Italian restaurant blossoms in lush, rugged setting

Destination Restaurants 2022


The first appetizer one night was kusafugu (grass puffer) with miso made from potatoes and kōji mold, lemon miso, kombu water and smoked wild boar — an ambitious layering of concentrated umami flavors.

Mount Unzen is an active volcanic complex in the center of the Shimabara Peninsula in Nagasaki Prefecture long known for both beauty and danger. In 1934, Unzen National Park became one of Japan’s first three national parks, alongside Setonaikai National Park and Kirishima National Park. The eruption from 1990 through 1995 is seared into the memory of many Japanese — the volcano caused 38 mudflows and seven massive pyroclastic flows, leaving 44 people dead or missing, including members of the international media. In 2009, the Unzen volcanic area was designated a UNESCO Global Geopark. 

Villa del Nido is an Italian restaurant in Unzen, a city in the northwest of the peninsula. About an hour and a half by car from Nagasaki Airport, Unzen is a small city of fewer than 10,000 people. With a mild climate and temperatures that vary little throughout the year, the area boasts the highest potato production in Kyushu and is known for its many agricultural products. Villa del Nido is surrounded by farms that grow strawberries in winter and melons and moroheiya greens in summer, reflecting the natural bounty of the region.

Takafumi Yoshida, the owner-chef of Villa del Nido, was born and raised on the peninsula. A job at a restaurant in the city of Fukuoka set him on the path toward cooking, and at 26, he traveled to Italy. After training in the Piedmont region for a year, he returned to Fukuoka and took a job at a seaside cafe. It was there that he found his direction as a chef.

Nagasaki (Italian)
Villa del Nido
313-2 Tairako, Kunimicho, Unzen-shi, Nagasaki

“Everyone who worked at the cafe surfed, and they would pick up garbage at the beach,” he said. “They were very committed to conservation. Seeing them was a wake-up call. I decided that instead of opening a restaurant in downtown Fukuoka like I’d originally planned, I wanted to engage with the natural environment of my hometown.”

In 2015, he opened a six-table restaurant on the grounds of his childhood home. Yoshida cooks and his wife, Haruna, serves; they are the only employees.

At both lunch and dinner, there is one prix fixe menu, made up of eight to 10 dishes including dessert, for ¥18,150 ($130). Yoshida uses a wide range of techniques to draw out the full potential of his ingredients, as a dish of locally grown mustard greens simmered in a fermented lamb extract illustrates. There are delicacies from the ocean, like nori and fugu from the Ariake Sea and harpooned ishidai (striped beakfish) from the Goto Islands, killed swiftly at sea to preserve its freshness. There is produce from local farms, like potatoes, strawberries and pink-and-white hinona turnips shaped like carrots. Shimabara somen, called “the thinnest noodles in the world,” sometimes makes an appearance on the menu. The food, much of which incorporates garden ingredients like mugwort, okra and carrots, has a pure, delicious flavor. Ninety percent of the ingredients come from Shimabara. Yoshida says that as he worked to create a restaurant rooted in place, he connected with local producers. Valuing those relationships led naturally to an emphasis on locally produced food.


Yoshida was born in 1981 in the Kunimi district of Unzen, Nagasaki Prefecture. He studied international cultures at a university in Tokyo and initially wanted to be a police officer, but changed his mind after a casual job at a restaurant in Fukuoka sparked his interest in cooking. Following a period of training in Italy’s Piedmont region and a job at a seaside cafe in Itoshima, Fukuoka Prefecture, he opened the Italian restaurant Villa del Nido in 2015. In 2019, he renovated the interior with a forest theme.

Sponsored by ANA

Ryotei Hanzuiryo

The Unzen Onsen hot spring resort sits within the boundaries of Unzen-Amakusa National Park on the island of Kyushu. Surrounded by this beautiful natural setting is Ryotei Hanzuiryo. The inn has just 14 guest rooms, which dot a sprawling 20,000-square-meter property. Kyoto carpenters specializing in shrine and temple construction built the two special one-story guest pavilions and the six two-story buildings that house another 12 rooms. All are built in Japan’s traditional sukiya style.

The rooms are not the only outstanding feature of this inn. The hot spring, which flows around the clock directly from a natural source into the baths, is also excellent, as are the gardens surrounding the buildings, each of which has a different mood.

380-1 Unzen Obama-cho, Unzen-shi, Nagasaki Prefecture
Tel: 0957-73-2111


今回紹介する〈ヴィッラ デル ニード〉は、地質遺産として「ユネスコ世界ジオパーク」にも認定された雲仙岳を臨む、長崎県雲仙市にあるイタリアン・レストランだ。長崎空港から車で約1時間半、バスや島原鉄道などの公共機関を使えば2時間強。人口1万人に満たない小さな町だが、寒暖差が少ない温暖な気候で、九州一の生産量を誇るジャガイモを始め、数々の農産物の生産で知られている。



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