10 Magazine always pays for its meals and never notifies restaurants that they are being reviewed.
Italian restaurants are plentiful in Seoul. Authenticity on the other hand, while on the rise, still suffers. It’s always a challenge to keep it real despite the regular complaints from domestic customers like, “Can I have pickles for my pizza?” or “It’s too salty.” (Funny how salt in an eggplant parmesan is sensitive to the Korean palate while briny kimchi doesn’t register.)
The subject of this month’s restaurant review, however, stays true to the old country, and in a unique way. Plenty of nice Italian restaurants have bars, but this time Italian chef/owner Samuel Zucca, former Italian chef at the Shilla Hotel, brings us Korea’s first authentic Italian Gastropub. On the Tuesday night we visited he was not in attendance, but I’m told he is there often.
Zucca’s Gastropub Seoul stays true to the old country. The Italian chef/owner Samuel Zucca brings us Korea’s first authentic
Zucca’s still has all the trappings of a fine Italian restaurant, including a massive gas-fired pizza oven and private dining rooms, but the emphasis on the bar is unmistakeable. They’ve got six beers on tap ranging from Kloud (W4,000) to Guinness (W9,000), and of course Peroni (W7,000). There are another couple dozen beers in the bottle, including Chimay Red and Blue (W12,000). Reasonably-priced wines abound, including sparkling Prosecco starting at W49,000. Besides the usual pizza and pasta, there are cheese and cold cut platters to go with your drink. The real standout, however, was the cocktail menu. They have all the classics and many truly Italian cocktails – and ALL of them come in at only W7,000! I am a lover of the Italian cocktail the Negroni, which is made with Gin, Vermouth Rossi, and Campari. Zucca’s delivered on a perfect one at the best price I’ve seen in Seoul.
Oh yeah, the food! The Calamari Fritti (fried squid, W9,000) was made with mini-squid (쭈꾸미), giving you the choice between crispy little rings or tentacles. The two mayonnaise-based sauces were good, but similar in taste, and this delivered on an appetizer that was just like an appetizer I would get from an Italian restaurant back in the US. Our Porcini e Tartufo (porcini and truffle, W19,000) pizza was absolutely awesome. The truffle scent smacked you in the face with every bite. I am a huge crispy pizza fan, so I wouldn’t have minded if it had been a tad crispier, but it still delivered on a delectable thin crust. Our Lasagna (W15,000) was authentic bolognese style, with bechamel sauce layered in with the meat ragu to give it that creamy consistency. Absolutely spot on. Quite pleasant after a very disappointing version a few months ago.
Zucca’s Gastropub is a tremendous addition to the Seoul dining – and drinking – scene. You can bet I’ll be back for another nice Negroni aperitif soon.