DC’s First ‘Wafu’ (Japanese-Style) Pizza/Pasta Place Coming to Chinatown

Chinatown is about to debut DC’s first ‘Wafu’ (Japanese-style) pasta and pizza joint.

Daikaya Group partners Yama Jewayni, Katsuya Fukushima, and Daisuke Utagawa are opening their fifth District restaurant, Tonari, this winter in the former Graffiato space directly next to Daikaya in Chinatown. This is fitting, since Tonari means ‘neighbor’ or ‘next door.’

“When the space ‘next door’ became available, the immediate and exciting concept that came to mind was Japanese Wafu pasta and pizza,” said Fukushima. “Wafu cuisine has very much been a part of Japanese culture, so I’m excited to have the opportunity to be able to share this special piece of Japan with diners in DC. Ganbarimasu!”

The origin of Wafu pasta dates back to 1953 at a tiny restaurant in Tokyo called Kabenoana (Hole in the Wall). Kabenoana’s chef started using Japanese ingredients — like Tarako (cod roe) Uni (sea urchin), Shitake, Nori, and dashi — to create new pasta dishes. Tonari’s pizza, with a distinctive Japanese flair, features bread with a sweet-smelling, soft, fluffy, and chewy texture.

“Inspired by the contrast of eating pizza alongside the Philospher’s Path and pasta in Kyoto’s train station, we wanted the design to lean as traditionally Japanese as the food leans Italian,” said Brian Miller, Senior Design Director at edit lab at Streetsense, responsible for Tonari’s design. “We stripped out the old acoustic ceiling to uncover the building’s wooden roof structure, and added handmade Japanese wallpaper sheets, horigotatsu seating on the 2nd floor, and a moss garden to slow things down to Kyoto’s pace. The music is the most typical Japanese restaurant soundtrack we could construct – a collection of American jazz.”

*Images provided courtesy Tonari 

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