5 best Italian restaurants in Seoul recommended by an Italian

5 best Italian restaurants in Seoul recommended by an Italian

Where would true Italians go for the food from the motherland? Here are the best five in Seoul
The Kitchen's D.O.C. pizza is a treat indeed. It's where Italians go for the real deal.

Italian cuisine is a favorite in Seoul, seen as smart food in every sense. But with so many varieties, it's hard to appreciate the true meaning of Italian food. Is it Italian? Korean-Italian? Somewhere in between or just something with tomato sauce? 

To guide the way to true Italian in Seoul, 33-year-old engineer Giandomenico Volpicella from Puglia, Italy, who's been living in Seoul for the past three years, pulled up his sleeves, sharpened up his tastebuds and picked five of his favorites. A true lover of food, Volpicella makes his own meals at home, but from time to time, he enjoys a night out with some of his favorite dishes which he calls "autentici Italiani." 

Tuscany 

"그의 음식은 단연 최고입니다"


Tuscany, located on the second floor of the Plaza Hotel Seoul, has already gained popularity and appreciation among pasta-lovers over the years. As for Volpicella, he chose this place for one reason: chef Maurizio Ceccato. The chef moved to Seoul in 1996 from his hometown Belluno, Italy, and has been introducing original Italian dishes ever since. 

“The pasta is fresh and you can feel this as soon as you take one bite. The same goes for the tomatoes. You can actually taste the tomatoes; the texture and the juices,'' Volpicella says as he eats the Garganelli pasta from the restaurant's Back from the Market set. 

According to Ceccato, the restaurant changes the set menus in a monthly basis in order to use seasonal ingredients. 

“The most important is the ingredients. It takes up about 60 percent of the entire dish. The rest goes to technique and presentation,'' the chef says.   

23 2-ga, Taepyeong-ro, Jung-gu, +82 2 310 7200, lunch 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., dinner 6 p.m.-10 p.m. 

The Kitchen, Salvatore Cuomo

"바닷가 옆에 사는 저희 엄마가 해주시는 맛. 100% 이탈리안입니다"


The Kitchen
 is located in the posh neighborhood of Sinsa-dong, one of the most popular fashion districts in Seoul. It lives up to the area's reputation: chic and modern interior, funky music, a spacious terrace perfect for a summer night and of course, excellent food. 

“The Kitchen's linguine alla pescatore is the best. I lived near the sea and my mother used to make this dish for me when I was young. It tastes the same," Volpicella says.  

The dish may be a bit too salty for Koreans, but nevertheless, it's what Volpicella described it would be: rich, salty ("as Italians like it") and like it came directly from the sea.

Another favorite is the D.O.C. pizza. The dome oven was made by a professional from Naples, says Volpicella.    

“The pizza here is true Italian. The fresh cherry tomatoes and rucola are perfect with the thin dough and cheese. These are actually the only ingredients you need to make a good pizza. Nothing more. They just have to be of great quality." 

646-2, Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu, +82 2 3447 0071, lunch 11:30 a.m.- 3 p.m., dinner 6 p.m.-11 p.m., open until midnight on Friday and Saturday

Paolodemaria 

디저트만큼 중요한 코스도 없다. 파올로데마리아를 더욱 특별하게 만들어주는 디저트 트롤리


Another important course in an Italian meal is the dessert. This was why Volpicella chose Seorae Village's Paolodemaria as one of his favorites. 

“It's very rare to taste various types of desserts laid out on a trolley in Seoul,'' he says. 

A selection from the dessert trolley costs 9,000 won ($8.50) and offers seven to eight cakes and pies. The desserts are all made at the restaurant and customers can choose four. Even if you're not much of a cake-fan, it's still fun and pleasant to watch the colorful cakes and pies move around the shop on the trolley.   

Desserts aside, Paolodemaria is also popular for its pasta as well.  

“Lasagna with bacon and tomato is popular in Rome. It's very important you use fresh pasta as it helps you feel the richness of the tomatoes." 

Paolodemaria is led by Paolo De Maria who worked at Buono Sera and Star Sera, two popular Italian restaurants in Seoul. The chef is also an honorary Korean citizen and wrote a book on pasta called "Pasta e Basta" in Korean. 

91-3, Banpo-dong, Seocho-gu, +82 2 599 9936, Tuesday - Sunday, lunch 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., dinner 6 p.m.-10 p.m. 

Di Matteo

"나폴리에서 파는 피자를 먹고 싶다면 디마떼오를 가세요"


The first thing customers see when they walk into pizza place Di Matteo, led by comedian and actor Lee Won-seung, is the huge pizza oven that makes up most of the space of the first floor. The interior may seem a bit old and corny, but according to Volpicella, it's the closest Napoli pizza Seoulites can get in the city. No need to fret over that perfect photo of Napoli pizza from a friend's Facebook anymore. 

“In Naples, the pizza is a bit burned and at Di Matteo, the pizza is a bit burned too. The dough is just exactly the same, just as Italians like it. Not sweet and the perfect amount of saltiness."

There are two types of cheese at Di Matteo: the Bufala and Fresca. Fresca is refrigerated cheese from Italy, while Bufala is a mozzarella made from the milk of the water buffalo rather than the normal cow.

"You must choose Bufala, as it is softer and creamier than the Fresca."  

1-141 Dongsung-dong, Jongno-gu, +82 2 747 4444, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. 

casAntonio

"치즈 향이 입 안에 가득해지는 느낌! 치즈를 사랑하는 이탈리아인들이 사랑하는 부라타입니다"


For a more traditional experience, try out Itaewon's casAntonio

As soon as he sits down, Volpicella orders the Burrata alla Caprese. Burrata is a small ball of mozzarella and cream. The outer part is mozzarella, but once someone pokes a fork into it, the soft mozzarella and cream ooze out. 

The restaurant's carbornara is also a specialty. While many local Italian restaurants prepare this dish with heavy cream, casAntonio only uses eggs to thicken the texture and add that creamy taste. The mascarpone tiramisu served in a martini glass is also an unknown specialty. 

“We also prepare special courses for parties more than five,” says owner Antonio Patella.

Patella came to Korea as a pianist and eventually started his own restaurant business. He still plays the piano from time to time at the restaurant. 

124-6, Itaewon-dong, Yongsan-gu, +82 2 794 8803, lunch 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m., dinner 6 p.m.- 10 p.m. 

Rachel Sang-hee Han is a freelance writer for CNN Travel. 

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