Villa Aida


Rural produce utopia serving contemporary Italian-inflected dishes

Villa Aida

On the Pass

Kanji Kobayashi

Where can I find it? Villa Aida is a secluded retreat in the heart of rural Wakayama, about one hour’s drive south of Osaka. Opened in 1998, it is run by chef Kanji Kobayashi and his wife Yumi as a rustic restaurant serving innovative, Italian-inspired cuisine.

Trading Japan for Italy: At age 21, Kobayashi left his hometown on a one-way ticket to Italy. For four years, he learned his trade at restaurants across the country, from the mountains in the north to the Gulf of Naples. After returning to Japan, he opened Villa Aida on a corner of his father’s farm to pay homage to his time in Europe. He still adopts the Italian ethos of ‘campanismo’, which means cooking with ingredients sourced within hearing distance of the city church bells. In short: hyper local and hyper seasonal.

From farm to fork: Vegetables are the stars at Villa Aida. Having grown up in a farming family, Kobayashi now grows much of the organic produce used in the restaurant – or sources from his surrounding neighbours. He says there are more than 300 different vegetables growing in the surrounding fields, each of which are candied, pickled, dried or cooked to create the dishes across the 10-course tasting menu.

What’s the food like? Given Wakayama’s proximity to the coast, Kobayashi likes to match seafood with his produce, such as squid with local fennel. Another signature dish is deep-fried mizu-nasu eggplant with green onions and a purée of fresh almonds from his own trees with local sesame. He aims to create plates cultivated from the land and sea that, in his own words "simply cannot be done in the city”.