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Little Italia

If you are looking for a taste of authentic Italian food in Daegu, look no further than Little Italya. Owned and operated for the last ten years by Chef Goo Ja Tae, this small, bistro-style eatery is located right in the heart of Downtown and provides a terrific assortment of delicious pasta and pizza dishes at great prices.

 

The dining area is small but very comfortable. The décor goes perfectly with the sparse, tasteful aesthetic of the layout. A towering wine rack greets you when you first walk in.  The entire main wall is a row of arch shaped shelves with small paintings and trinkets inside. It is well lit and all the tables and chairs are made of blondish wood, giving the space a bright, clean ambiance. Behind the counter, you can see directly into the bustling kitchen. Two four-top tables are located up front. To the right, along the wall is a line of four tables-for-two. Behind two hanging shelves which act as a partition and up a few steps are two more small tables; a nice, intimate spot to sit with a date.

 

The bulk of the menu is comprised of pasta dishes. They are conveniently separated by the base of the sauce; there are sections for tomato, olive oil and cream.  There are also four different risotto dishes available. If you are in the mood for pizza, then you can design your own by selecting from a nice variety of toppings, or choose one of four classic pies. Naturally, all pizza is made to order so anything you get is fresh as can be. If you just want something light, there are four salads to choose from, including the Italian standard, caprese (mozzarella, sliced tomato and basil with olive oil and balsamic vinegar).

 

Our table started off with the mushroom and bacon salad. These two main ingredients came piled on top of a bed of fresh mixed greens, red onions and cherry tomatoes dressed with an excellent vinaigrette. Next, we were treated to three different pasta dishes. First, we tried the ravioli with ragu sauce. The ravioli was filled with no less than six ingredients: ricotta, mozzarella and parmesan cheese in addition to ground beef, bacon and egg yolk…This symphony of flavors meshed incredibly well with the basic tomato sauce; each bite had a pleasantly smoky taste. After that, we had the shrimp Genovese. This is essentially a spaghetti and pesto dish topped with, you guessed it: shrimp. It’s as simple and tasty as it sounds. The pesto sauce is rich without being overpowering and it comes with more than enough shrimp to satisfy any seafood enthusiast. Lastly, we got what was undoubtedly the biggest hit at the table: the cream sauce risotto with chicken breast. Bring your appetite if you plan on messing with this stuff because it is HEAVY (in the best possible way). The rice was perfectly cooked; every individual grain stood out without being at all crunchy, and the creamy sauce was seasoned lightly enough so as to not distract from the yummy, simple flavor of the grilled chicken. It may stop your heart before you can finish, but what a nice way to go…

 

Once we finished our entrees, we were each treated to a mound of vanilla pudding surrounded by a colorful array of dipping sauces. The sweet dessert, served with a good cup of coffee punctuated our meal impeccably. As mentioned above, the prices at Little Italya are more than fair. Almost every pasta dish costs less than 10,000w. The pizzas, which can serve two people cost between 13,000w and 16,000w. The salads, also ideal for splitting, are 6,500-10,000w. The mostly Italian wine list features four different reds and three whites. They cost 5,000-7,000w by the glass and around 30,000w per bottle. Ask your waiter or waitress to recommend a wine to complement your meal as they all seem quite knowledgeable. A bottle of Moretti or Menabrea beer (both seriously good Italian brews) costs 6,500w. There are two set options as well. Set 1 includes a mixed green salad, two pasta dishes and two non-alcoholic drinks. Set 2 includes one pasta dish, one pizza and two non-alcoholic drinks. Both sets cost 19,800w.

 

In addition to his everyday menu, Chef Goo also frequently provides a special menu, reserved for some more authentic dishes he learned while studying cuisine in Italy. He explains that both Korean and American palettes are conditioned to favor much stronger tastes and so they often don’t appreciate lighter, simpler recipes. It is on this menu that the ravioli ragu was featured, and while the filling of the ravioli was far from light, the bare-basic (yet delicious) tomato sauce was a perfect example of Mr. Goo’s sensibility.

 

Little Italya is, well…little, so even a seasoned Downtown veteran may walk past it without noticing. The simplest directions would be to head west (towards the shopping district and stage) from the main strip of foreigner bars. It will be on your right, just a few steps before you run into the perpendicular street. Choose your preferred mode of transportation to get Downtown and check out this hidden gem soon! 

 

Written by Lee Flory - Photos by Goo Ja Tae

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