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Italian Cuisine and Japanese Sake – A Match Made in Food Heaven?

Tom Inoue

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Common knowledge globally is that sake goes well only with Japanese cuisine, like sushi. What most people don’t know is that sake is quite versatile.

Surprisingly, it pairs well with Italian cuisine.

Since there are many sake varieties, the taste also varies—from light, dry, and fresh to rich, creamy, and savory. Even if you don’t intentionally select particular sake to dishes you eat, you’re likely to discover a good paring.

Here are some examples of tasty sake pairings with Italian food, put together by a professional sake stylist.

Daiginjo and Appetizer

Sake: Akashi-tai Daiginjo

Unlikely other Daiginjo sakes, Akashi-tai’s Daiginjo is pretty much rich in flavor with a sweet aroma.

Recommended appetizer pairings:

  • Octopus and celery with Genovese sauce

    Daiginjo sake brings out the mildly complex flavor of octopus. Its flavor is slightly stronger than octopus, but the Genovese sauce and celery create harmony with the sake and a refreshing green note.

  • Peperonata and mozzarella cheese

    The sweet smokiness of paprika, the fresh milky cheese, and the sake’s rich flavor enhance the savoriness and sweetness of this pairing.

  • Chicken liver patty in puff

    Together, rich sake and savory chicken liver patty is well balanced. This pairing also brings out the aroma of fruit and vanilla in the sake.

Junmai Daiginjo and Carpaccio

Sake: Akashi-tai Junmai Daiginjo

Carpaccio of red sea beam with gazpacho soup

The well-balanced acidity of sake and the tomatoes in gazpacho creates a pleasant, refreshing taste.

Junmai Daiginjo and Sea Urchin

Sake: Rairaku Junmai Daiginjo (unpasteurized, undiluted)

A little sparkling, smooth, and refreshing flavor, it’s medium body has a pleasant accent of bitterness.

Sea urchin and egg plant baked au tomato gratin

Rich and bitter sake mixes very well with malting sea urchin and sweet egg plant with slightly bitter skin. The acidity in the tomato puree and sake creates a fresh aftertaste.

Junmai on the rock and Fedelini with scallop and turban shell

Sake: Rairaku Junmai Nama Genshu of flower yeast (unpasteurized, undiluted)

Fedelini with scallop and turban shell

The sake provides a delicate yet flourishing aroma at the beginning. Its savoriness pairs well with the fresh, briny taste of shellfish. Garlic and ginger also melt in sake, enhancing the rich and pleasant taste of the dish.

Hot Junmai and Vegetable risotto with conger pike

Sake: Rairaku Junmai Yamadanishiki 75(hot sake, 109℉ / 43℃)

Vegetable risotto with fried conger pike

The savoriness of conger pike, and the sweetness of rice and corn just slightly overpowers that of sake. It slightly masks the flavor of sake, but stimulates the appetite at the same time.

Hot Junmai and Flatfish grilled with cheese

Sake: Rairaku Junmai Yamadanishiki 75 (hot sake, 109℉ / 43℃)

Flatfish grilled with cheese

Brown butter mellows down the slightly acid sake, and the resulting flavor mildly balances with that of cheese.

Honjozo on the rock and Roast beef

Sake: Akashi-tai Honjozo (undiluted)

Roasted Kobe beef with arugula

Rock ice adds softness and sweetness to the body of sake, giving even more fullness and mildness to the taste of Kobe beef, while also washing away the fattiness.

Sparkling Junmai Ginjo and Panna cotta

Sake: Akashi-tai Sparkling Junmai Ginjo

Panna cotta with marinated cherries

The sake’s subtle sweet and acidic flavor wonderfully complements the creamy and milky taste of panna cotta. Cherry and vanilla beans also harmonize with sake, creating a pleasant finish in your mouth.

Which pairing are you excited to try out first?

You might be wondering why Italian food and Japanese sake make a good match. We can guarantee that these two go well together from a scientific point of view.
It’s because Italians and Japanese utilize the same taste component.

In Italian cuisine, flavors are enhanced with the use of salt, olive oil, and tomato. Japanese cuisine is also rich in the natural taste of salt and Japanese kelp. Tomato and kelp share the same taste component that provides you with umami or savoriness—glutamic acid. So if sake pairs well with Japanese cuisine, why not with Italian?

The next time you have some sake, try pairing it with Italian food. You’ll discover a new, delectable way to enjoy sake, and it’s not just with sushi.

Italian dishes provided by Al Porto

Featured Sake


Akashi Sake brewery sales sake in Britain and some other countries globally. It aims to provide joyful moments of daily meals together with tasty sake all over the world.
The Akashi-tai sake is made from the highest-quality Yamada Nishiki, the king of sake rice, reflecting the brewery’s attitude toward making the best of best.
You can buy Akashi-tai sake in MS Queen Elizabeth and some first-class hotels.

Rairaku (Ibaraki Sake Brewery)

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