For weeks I’d been hearing about Carlo from my friends in Jisan-dong. They said I had to try it and I had to tell others about it. Located on a block down from Dong-a Department Store, Carlo is a new addition to the ever-changing restaurant scene in this area. I was skeptical since there are a lot of sub-par Italian restaurants in Korea. Also, for me, every Italian restaurant has to compete with the superb Napoli and most fall short.
Carlo is a quaint, more affordable addition for those who want a decent Italian meal. Owned and operated by Giovanni Kim (seriously, that was the name he told us), who has spent the previous decade living in Florence, Italy. I really liked the design of the restaurant. It is comfortable and open, a good place to share a bottle of wine with a friend. Giovanni is very friendly and eager to please his customers.
The menu is simple, but compelling. I started with a Mimosa (5,000 won). He also had Bellinis on the aperitif menu. I’m a sucker for champagne cocktails, so that was a nice menu surprise. I paired that with the antipasto platter of cheeses, meats, and olives (25,000 won). I was a little disappointed, since everything was bought from Costco and I would have liked some bread to be served with it. Main courses are all pasta dishes, ranging between 9,000-12,000 won. I ordered the tortellini with meat sauce, off the menu.
My husband asked Giovanni to recommend something. The chef had prepared an off-menu item for those who were feeling adventurous. He had salmon marinated in herbs, lemon, and white wine with fusilli.
I also ordered a house wine. Giovanni asked me whether I’d like a Chilean or an Italian wine. This impressed me, since in most restaurants the house wine usually comes from a box. I let Giovanni choose and he produced a refreshingly dry chardonnay from Italy. Our pasta arrived and it was cooked to perfection. It is a rare and wonderful thing to find someone who can actually cook pasta. I know that boiling dried dough sounds like an easy thing. It isn’t. The meat sauce was flavorful, but not spectacular. My husband loved his dish, but I found the fish a little overpowering. We then splurged and had the tiramisu. It was a lovely finish to the meal, but again can be found at Costco.
Carlo is a good place to have decent Italian with some friends. I’d like for the chef to branch out a little bit and try something new. I’d also like to see his menu include some non-pasta main dishes. However, Giovanni’s friendliness and willingness to share with his customers makes this a place worth checking out. I think with time, this could be a restaurant that shines.
By Michelle Van Balkom