The spotlight this time is on a literal treasure trove, literally hidden in plain sight along a main thoroughfare in Nishi Ward.
The entrance is in the back, hidden from the street but once you turn the corner you see this adorably quaint entryway and you know you are here.
Furthermore, you open the door to a bright staircase to an alternate reality.
It opens up to a room full of Nordic goods: this is Pitea, the Swedish goods, knick-knacks, and antiques shop. Words cannot begin to describe the array and number of goods here. They had cute kitchenware, retro decor, handcrafted goods, and so much more.
It is a collectors dream as there was barely an inch of unused table or wall space. The owner makes regular trips to Sweden to add more stuff to the shop.
In the back of the shop is another entryway, the one that led to Lepre–the place we came for.
This too is a wonderfully decorated, well-lit, quaint, friendly, open, and relaxing atmosphere that was designed by the owner of the Pitea shop.
They have a craft table to one side and a bunch of books and magazines for you to peruse.
Now came the hard part, deciding what to have for lunch.
The chef specialized in Italian food, has gone to Italy a few times, and even used to run an Italian restaurant in Furumachi before moving to the cafe space inside of his friend’s shop. You can see this Italian influence in the menu.
Here is the menu in English. Each dish comes with a salad of locally grown veggies and handmade dressing and a side of soup.
・Pasta of the day 1,050 yen
・Crab spaghetti lunch 1,600 yen
・Jansson’s temptation 1,050 yen
・Curry lunch of the day 1,050 yen
・Lepre salad lunch (with bread) 1,050 yen
・Today’s special (see the blackboard)
・Hokkaido Eastern Earthquake Charity lunch: Jansson’s temptation with Atlantic Cod (with bread) 1,300 yen
For 200 yen, add a drink of your choice or the dessert of the day. For 300 yen, get a drink and the dessert.
Drink choices were: hot coffee, mint tea, hot jasmine tea, ice coffee, Tsugaru apple juice, blood orange juice, non-alcoholic sangria.
Lepre spring special 1450 yen: asparagus cream sauce spaghetti
Pasta lunch 1050 yen: bacon and green onion spaghetti with oil sauce
Curry lunch 1050 yen: beef curry with turmeric rice
Today’s special 1300 yen: cheese risotto (with Niigata-grown rice)
This is the salad and the soup that came out before the main dishes. The dressing is a super simple oil based dressing made using ingredients almost entirely from Niigata. They have been using this recipe for over 10 years and have it for sale in their cafe as well.
The cheese risotto was so creamy and fantastic.
The beef curry was not as soupy as most curry rices in Japan are but it wasnt quite a dry curry either. It is also made from scratch, starting from the spice blend that the chef put together himself.
Jansson’s temptation is a potato au gratin casserole dish from Sweden which the owner of Pitea brought back to the chef of Lepre. It was rich and creamy and I definitely want to have it again.
The dessert of the day was zucotto, handmade by the chef’s wife. It was full of different nuts and had a refined sweetness.
They are also open for “tea time” and dinner! Their dinner menu (above) includes most of the dishes from lunch and a greater selection of pastas and meat dishes.
When we sat down to interview the owner, he handed us his card it was then that we learned the story behind the name of the cafe. “Lepre” means “rabbit” in Italian and when the chef’s daughter was little, she loved to draw rabbits.
Taking inspiration from that and the fact that they wanted to make their cafe a family friendly space, they thought it was the perfect name. They also chose to write the name on their sign in hiragana so that kids can easily read it as well.
It is a great place, with good food that you can spend a lot of relaxed time in both the café and the shop. It is also located a short 2-3 min walk from 2 different bus stops that have buses come pretty frequently. I hope you stop by!
At a glance
Food: Delicious. You can tell that a lot of time and skill has gone into it.
Atmosphere: Bright, open, and airy
English Friendliness: 0/10 There is no English menu and the menu has no pictures.
Price Range: Lunch ￥1100-1500
Hours: 11:30 am-8:00 pm
Lunch: 11:00am-3:00 pm
Cafe: 3:00-5:00 (desserts, drinks)
Dinner: 5:00-8:00 pm (Last Order)
Closed: Tues, National holidays, irregular closures
Location: れぷれ (Lepre)
2nd floor ku, Niigata, Niigata Prefecture 950-2063