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La Cafeteria brings Peruvian sandwiches to Okinawa

By: Kenny Ehman

Date Posted: 1998-06-20

There's a little taste of Peru now located in the sleepy town of Maeda. Driving along the road to Cape Maeda, you will notice a small sign on your right that points the way to Regina Itokazu's "La Cafeteria". Born in Huaral Peru to Japanese parents, Itokazu grew up with all the great things both cultures had to offer, including the great cuisine of South America. She eventually married, and started a small restaurant in Lima selling Peruvian style sandwiches. The place was a success and popular with the locals for many years, until her recent retirement. Itokazu, after much deliberation, decided to leave the country she loved so much for Okinawa, where her son has been living and working as a potter for the past fifteen years. It would also be a return home for her husband, who has spent most of his life in Peru, but was born here on the island.

Luckily for sandwich lovers here on Okinawa, Itokazu also decided to bring that great taste of Peru with her. Last year she opened a sandwich shop called "La Cafeteria", and the shop has re-opened again after being closed for the winter. The name of the place is the perfect way to explain this simple little eatery. Located in the midst of a quiet residential area, just near the ocean, and surrounded by sugar cane fields, "La Cafeteria" fits with its surroundings. It is a "mom and pop' business, with that warm family feeling. And that warmness is also something that Itokazu uses, to make some of the best sandwiches along the west coast of Okinawa. It is one of those places that you would drive a long ways just for the taste.

The menu, like the shop, is also simple. The "Pan Con Pollo" •300 is a type of thin pita bread loaded with shredded chicken and lettuce, and topped off with some home made mayonnaise. Pork lovers can bite into the "Butifarra" •350, which has plenty of flavorful slices of roasted pork, sliced onions, and chili peppers. The roast pork is cooked on the premises and is seasoned with herbs and spices to bring out that special flavor. It is also served on the same bread as the "Pan Con Pollo" and is extremely delicious. Beef rounds out the menu with the "Pan con Lomito" •350 which is a combination of deliciously sautéed beef strips, sliced onions and chili peppers. Something else you won't want to miss is the home made "Empanada" •150, which are pies packed with either chicken or beef. Each one is carefully blended with a variety of spices and sauce to create one of the most tastiest snacks around. For all of you old fashion hamburger and hot dog fans, "La Cafeteria" can satisfy your cravings too. Their cheeseburger •300 is homemade, and is sure to be enough for any appetite. Hot dogs •200 and chili dogs •250 are also a great bargain. french fries are •200, and a variety of soft drinks are also available for •120. Ice tea is •170, ice coffee •220, mineral water •150, and beer is •220. The kids will also be pleased with ice cream •200 for dessert.

What makes Itokazu's sandwiches so great is their huge size and original taste. They're not dripping and soggy from mayonnaise or grease, and they are not like any sandwich you can whip up at home. Itokazu spends much time every night preparing, which guarantees everything will be fresh. Everything is homemade, so you know you're not going to eat anything bad. Everything is very good.

The location of "La Cafeteria" also makes it a great place to stop by on your way to the beach or on the way home. It's the perfect inexpensive meal for the beach that you can take along with you, and it saves you a lot of time. Itokazu and her son's wife provide plenty of smiles and friendliness, and she welcomes everyone to come and enjoy her sandwiches.

Right next door, you can also take a look at some beautiful pieces of pottery, made by one of Okinawa's most well known potters, Jorge Itokazu. His gallery is a convenient place to visit after a delicious sandwich. Jorge's style of pottery has caught the attention of many people on the island. He combines traditional Okinawan pottery mixed with Peruvian influences to create his own unique style. You can read more about Jorge's work in a future Japan Update article, but you can enjoy the Peruvian sandwiches anytime!

"La Cafeteria" is open from 11 am until 7 pm everyday, except Monday. To get to "La Cafeteria", head north from Kadena on Route 58. Turn off the Highway at the Renaissance Resort, and continue back along the coastline for about another mile. You will se a sign pointing to Maeda Misaki, where you will turn right. Keep an eye out for the sign that says "La Cafeteria".

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