-Cycle 2, Dinner 151-
5 (Sun) June 2011
* * * *
at Kitchen Salvatore Cuomo
with Wife, Dominic, and Parents
The "D.O.C." stands for "denominazione di origine controllata," a snooty reference to the kinda cool fact that the pizza comes from the only restaurant in Korea to have earned the official seal of approval from the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (see organization's website), a quasi-governmental body in Napoli, which some consider to be the birthplace of modern-day pizza, that sets the standards for "authentic" Neapolitan-style pizza and recognizes establishments that adhere thereto.
Generally, the standards require: the ingredients (e.g., flour, cheese, tomatoes, basil) are all-natural and non-processed, the dough has been hand-kneaded to a thickness less than 2 cm on the outer perimeter and less than 0.3 cm in the center, and the pizza is cooked for not longer than 90 seconds in an oven that fires wood only and reaches an internal temperature of 485 degrees.
When The Kitchen Salvatore Cuomo (see restaurant's website) opened its Seoul branch last year, it made front-page news in the local media, the headlines reading as if it were some kind of goddamn affirmation of the country's state of affluence and modernity. As far as I can tell, chef and owner Salvatore Cuomo isn't particularly famous for anything other than his efforts to get this AVPN designation for his restaurants across Asia, first Tokyo then Shanghai and now Seoul. Very little is said, either way, about the food itself. Nevertheless, when I had called for a reservation sometime just after the opening, I was told that the first available opening would be in two months. Congratulations to Chef Cuomo for choosing as his 3rd location a city that thrives on both exclusivity and recognition, particularly recognition of exclusivity.
The restaurant's signature wood-fired oven proudly on display in the open kitchen
(in the left corner of the photo, the head of actress/model Jeon Ji-Hyeon (전지현),
whom my father aptly described as "that girl who's made about 2 movies and 2000 commercials").
Anyway, the food was okay. The single factor that elevated the Pizza D.O.C. to 4 stars was its crust, which was among the best that I've ever had--better indeed that most breads here in the city--perfectly textured to be dry yet chewy, seasoned just right, and ever-so-slightly burnt in the wood-fired oven. The toppings, consisting of just buffalo mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, and basil, were fresh and tasty individually. It's a prime example of the old-school pizza trend in Korea that I've discussed in a series of prior posts (see most recently 1.191 Pizza with Black Olives and Mushrooms). However, I found the pizza in its totality to be less than spectacular. Fittingly, as this post's representative dish, the pizza seems to stand for all the other dishes that we ordered tonight: well-constructed with impeccable ingredients, yet somehow falling short of greatness in the end.
The more-vegetables-than-seafood fritto misto della casa.
Of course, everything was overpriced. 23,000 won for the pizza. 28,000 for a seafood linguine. 29,000 for deep-fried seafood, more than half of which appeared to be vegetables. We didn't dare stray into the meat section. I don't mind overpaying so long as I'm actually getting something for my money, but that wasn't the case here.