“I’m not concerned with trends. I simply don’t follow them.”
When asked what sets his family of restaurants apart from the seemingly endless parade of Italian restaurants available to diners in Daegu, this was what chef and owner Jatae wanted to emphasize. Referring to his other, highly regarded establishment in Dongseong-Ro, he added, “Little Italy has been around for fifteen years. That’s impossible if you follow trends. I hope Zione will be around for just as long.”
The key to his approach lies in a primary focus on what goes into the meal. “If you don’t start with the proper ingredients, you can’t make a proper meal,” he rightly observes. This focus on function over form is evident immediately in the antipasto, a selection of tomatoes and olives, with prosciutto and melon, escorted by soft white clouds of fresh mozzarella. At first we were a bit surprised. The staff knew we would be taking pictures, and yet the plating was seemingly random and, frankly, unappealing. The same was true for the next two dishes we tried: a sage butter gnocchi, and three cheese ravioli. Definitely not Instagram ready.
But that, inadvertently or not, was the point. One bite of any of these dishes was enough to make one forget about snapping a picture. All of the cheeses, the olives, even the flour used to make the pasta, were imported from Italy, and the flavors and textures were incredible. The simplicity of each dish allowed each ingredient to present itself clearly, without crowding out any of the others. This was especially impressive in the ravioli, where the ricotta, mozzarella, and parmesan were each discernible without becoming a greasy blob.
One would be tempted to say that Zione is aiming for authentic Italian cuisine, but the truth is more subtle than that. We also tried a rucola pizza that had succumbed to the urge to do too much, visible at any Korean pizza joint. Rather than serving authentic, traditional Italian food, Jatae has drawn upon his deep love of Italy to present diners with the very best of ingredients, in unassuming but flavor-centric dishes that are worth the trip.
- Address: Daegu Jung-Gu Dongseong-Ro 5 Gil 72-1
- Phone: 053-426-3992
How to get there: Walk South 700 meters (10 minutes) from Hyeonchungro station exit 2, and cross the street, or take bus 300, 600, or 750.
- 15,000-20,000 won per person
- Weekdays 12:00-22:00 (lunch is served until 15:00, 15:50 on weekends, and last dinner orders are accepted at 21:10)
- Closed Mondays
Check out their Apsan Mountain restaurant as well here:
Zione 2 – Apsan Mt.
Written and photographed by Brandon Payne
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