Italian Cuisine For Koreans

Why open an authentic Italian trattoria in the heart of Seoul? We asked this directly to its owner, Italian chef Paolo De Maria

  • Italian Cuisine For Koreans
  • Italian Cuisine For Koreans
  • Italian Cuisine For Koreans
  • Italian Cuisine For Koreans
  • Italian Cuisine For Koreans
  • Italian Cuisine For Koreans

He is a TV chef, a cooking book author and a cooking teacher, but above all an ambassador of Italian cuisine in the Far East. Through Fine Trattoria, Paolo De Maria has brought authentic Italian gastronomy to Seoul, setting it free it from the many stereotypes and pale imitations that typically surround it outside Italy, an enterprise that won him the prestigious Ospitalità Italiana quality seal.
Today, Paolo is the most popular Italian chef in South Korea and a honorary Korean citizen, with his own cooking shows and a best-selling pasta cookbook. We asked him about the secrets of his own success and the popularity of his restaurant.
What are the most popular Italian dishes in Korea?
PDM: Our cuisine is still very stereotyped here, so the main Italian dishes among Koreans would be pizza and pasta. Yet in my restaurant I try to offer 360-degree authentic Italian cuisine and Korean customers truly seem to appreciate this. With the support of my Italian staff, I provide them with all the basic information, in an attempt to spread a true knowledge of our food culture. I believe this strategy also repays economically, eventually, but of course it takes time - which is why it is so rarely adopted by Italian restaurateurs.
Is there a classic Italian dish that, in your opinion, sums up all the best features of our cuisine in terms of flavors, ingredients and techniques?
PDM: There’s plenty of emblematic dishes, but if I were to choose one in particular it would be fresh pasta in general. In my restaurant, I serve exclusively homemade fresh pasta. A properly made Lasagna (of which we have many different recipes in Italy) could be a truly exemplary dish of our national cuisine.
Is there any aspect of the Korean food tradition that fascinates you and has somehow influenced your own cuisine?
PDM: Professionally, I only deal with Italian cuisine, without any foreign influence. But of course I am personally interested in other national cuisines, especially Indian, Thai, Japanese and even Korean cuisine. What I find particularly intriguing in Korean gastronomy is traditional fermentation, and therefore all those foods such as soy sauce, soy paste and kimchi that, with the use of salt and through time, undergo an organoleptic metamorphosis.
I also love the so-called "Royal Cuisine", which dates back to the time of the Korean monarchy and is made up of exquisitely delicate and meticulously prepared dishes.
How is life in Seoul for an Italian expat?
PDM: Seoul is a huge and exciting city, offering everything anyone might need, regardless of their individual interests. Personally, as an amateur cyclist I am ceaselessly impressed by the efficiency and the quality of its bike lanes, allowing you to ride your bike for hundreds of miles in and out of town, with an endless choice of different routes to pick among.

Author : The Slowear Journal


Paolo De Maria  | Chef  | Seoul  | Italian cuisine  | pasta  | South Korea  |

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