▲ Dalgrak Italian Stove Pizza, located in Nohyeong-dong, offers an authentic taste of Italy. Photos by Park Jung Hoon
If there are two things I trust sports writer Matt Harris on implicitly, they would be soccer and food. So when he recommended a new pizza restaurant in my neighborhood of Nohyeong-dong, I was more than happy to meet my friend and trusty translator, Oh Ji Su, and head there to try it for myself.
Situated down one of the side streets that leads off the 1100 road and tucked away behind Jeju Jeil High School, Dalgrak Italian Stone Pizza is not a restaurant you might stumble upon by chance. But it is definitely well worth veering off your usual path to graze on the wide range of thin, crisp-crust pizzas on offer, accom-panied by salads, wine, coffee or a selection of imported beers.
Owner and chef, Kim Byung Soo, said the restaurant opened on March 31 and is the first restaurant he has owned, although he previously worked as a chef at an Italian restau-rant in Seoul. Surprisingly, he has been cooking since the age of 8 and has always enjoyed experimenting with different seasonings and flavors. “My father and mother were orange farmers on Jeju,” he said, “and whenever I came back from school, there was only rice.” He watched his mother carefully whenever she cooked other dishes and got the urge to cook himself.
Kim recalled the annual school picnic for which his mother always sent him with the same food, year after year. In Grade 5, tired of taking the same dish each picnic day, he rose early in the morning and made Japanese-style fried dumplings. “I was very popular with the other students,” he said.
Kim majored in graphic design at Konkuk University and worked as a design editor on publications and did some work on movies, but the kitch-en always called him back. “Whenever there was a big event, I was always the one who did the cooking,” he said.
His design background is obvious in the decor of the restaurant, which Kim and a friend built and which is a mix of minimalism and rustic simplicity. Pale wooden floors, tables, chairs and wall accents are set off by white plaster walls and a grey brick partition that screens the bathroom entrances. There are also inter-esting photos scattered around the walls and a large number of design books to browse. And of course, what no true pizzeria can do without, an oven takes pride of place near the front window.
There are eight pizza selec-tions, ranging from the classic Margerita at 13,000 won to a Calzone for 20,000 won, or even a Frutta dessert pizza. Ji Su and I opted to begin with the house salad and follow that with one Rucola and one Prosciutto pizza. The classic green salad with tomatoes was easily large enough to share and was finished off with a tasty dressing that included balsamic vinegar, olive oil and finely chopped red onion.
The Rucola came first, served on a heated stone that was kept warm above a candle, and consisting of a thin base topped with tomato sauce, cheese and a generous amount of rucola added after cooking. Known as rocket in English, the peppery green balanced well with the other flavors. Kim brought a home-made chilli sauce to accompany the pizza, and though he would not give its “secret recipe,” we identified fresh basil, olive oil and chillis among its ingredients. I had been tempted to order the spicy Diabolo pizza so enjoyed the option of adding a little fire to my meal.
The Prosciutto was a subtler option, with the delicate Italian ham blending seamlessly with a lightly seasoned tomato sauce and slivers of mush-room. Ji Su, who like many Koreans seems only half my size, amazed me by managing to eat more than twice what I could. Pizza never goes to waste, however, and I write this the following morning having enjoyed a slice of Prosciutto pizza that was just as good cold for breakfast as it was for dinner the night before.
Dalgrak Italian Stove Pizza 748-3. Nohyeong-dong, Jeju City Tel: 064-713-7483
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