I had never been really impressed by Western-style restaurants in Korea, in fact, I have been disappointed many times. So, on my occasional trips to Seoul or Busan, I always looked forward to getting my European food fix. That was before I went to La Luce for the first time and realized it is possible to find the authentic taste of Europe not far from downtown Daegu.
Behind the open kitchen at La Luce works Kim Seon-il, who learned the ins and outs of Italian cuisine in Lotte Hotel’s Peninsula restaurant in Seoul under the supervision of its Italian executive chef at the moment, Santino Sortino. Fortunately for us, he later decided to come down to Daegu and open La Luce, meaning “light” in Italian. The main ingredients of his creations – cheese, jamón, chorizo, olive and truffle oils – are imported from Europe, while he buys fresh products at a local market.
Their extensive menu essentially offers Italian, Spanish and Greek food. The menu is written in Korean and English and includes detailed descriptions (the chef also speaks some English and is willing to answer questions). There is a broad assortment of salads, pasta, and some meat dishes, like homemade hamburger and lamb.
A while after ordering, we were served a basket with focaccia and some olive oil for dipping. Our meal couldn’t have started in a better way. Fermented for 24 hours and baked twice a day (lunch and dinner separately), La Luce’s focaccia has a delicate rosemary scent, and it makes a perfect treat to tickle the appetite.
Our first main was Coca de Señorita. Served on a wooden board, Coca de Señorita has the appearance of a pizza, but it’s different. ‘Coca’ is the Catalan word for the flatbread that forms the base of this dish. On top of it, vegetables, ham or anchovies can be arranged to one’s taste. Unlike pizza, it has no cheese or tomato sauce. La Luce’s coca is topped with a layer of spinach, roasted yellow bell pepper, cherry tomato, and bacon. I was born and raised in Catalonia and, honestly, I was greatly impressed by the fact that they didn’t name it ‘Spanish pizza’ or threw Spanish-style ingredients on it irrationally.
We were taking our Coca slice when Moussaka landed on our table. I had done my research before my visit to La Luce, and I knew I would be ordering this oven-baked Greek dish. I hadn’t been able to eat Moussaka in ages, and it was just as soft and salty as I expected. Moussaka is made of layered eggplant slices, tomato sauce, and cheese, which creates a thin crispy crust after baking. Mr. Kim tells me later it’s one of their most popular dishes, and I’m not surprised.
Our last main was Risotto con Quattro Formaggi e Controfiletto di Manzo. To be honest, I am not a risotto fan myself (although a big cheese fan), but this was by far the best dish I tried at La Luce. Its creamy look is the result of a delicious blend of Parmigiano Reggiano, Camembert, Pecorino Romano, and Emmental. La Luce’s four cheese risotto is topped with slices of grilled sirloin beef, which, to my taste, could have been omitted, but meat lovers will like this touch.
Thanks to the generous portions we were really full at this point, but, well, there’s always room for dessert. Their daily sherbet seemed to be just what we needed, light and refreshing. We were served basil sherbet in a cocktail cup from which came a really intense herbal smell. The chef explained it was a combination of basil, squeezed lemon, sugar, and gin, and yes, it was as refreshing as it sounds.
As we walked out our tummies were full of food and our soul was full of joy, but I couldn’t stop thinking about coming back for more of that well-cooked warming food. How does buttercup squash soup with carrot, rosemary and extra virgin olive oil sound for one of those freezing winter evenings?
141, Dongdeok-ro, Jung-Gu, Daegu 700-412 (2nd floor). 대구 중구 삼덕동 동덕로 141
Parking lot available
053-606-0733 / 010-7501-3824
11:30 – 22:30 (break time 15:30 – 17:30). Closed on Sunday.
Written and photographed by Monica Santos.