I was tipped off by an Italian Expat that there are only about 4 Italian eateries in Seoul that are worth going to. At the top of his short list is Trattoria Jina & Franco. Next to it his note reads, “As far as Italian restaurants in Seoul, it is the best in quality and the best in value. It is a tiny second-story restaurant with an open kitchen.”
We were sat down at the tiny restaurant five minutes after exiting the subway. The best impression of the décor is the open kitchen. Seeing the big Italian chef put your pizza in the brick oven inspires more confidence in what you're about to eat. A bit of this confidence was lost when I scanned the huge menu. It wasn't complex or pretentious, in retrospect it was probably just the Korean that made it look cluttered.
We ordered lasagna (16k), the pizza of the day.(12k), and gelato (5k). The ham pizza is normally 16k.
There is not much to say about the bread and bread sticks, so not much will be said. Lasagna was preceded by a salad heavily dressed in balsamic vinegar. For Franco, salad is an afterthought rather than an opportunity. If you think, “Salad is just a salad,” I won't disagree: Our opinions are formed by our experiences, and I was disappointed not to be blown away by a zesty house dressing which I'm sure Franco is more than capable of.
Served on a massive plate and covered, not garnished with plenty of parmesan, the lasagna tasted excellent. It was quite a pretty rectangular prism, more well-dressed than most lasagna tends to be. That's not a bad thing. Think Cinderella at the ball: Only a hipster cares if she shows up in glass slippers or Reeboks cause you know that pussy still tight.
Then, ham pizza: I haven't had a napoli pizza this good in years. This is a perfect representation of Italian cooking; an understated chef's hand in a dish that boldly rests on the freshness of three or four ingredients. I savored each bite of the first half for as long as I could, and the second I ate in haste, desperately eating it while still warm.
The home-made gelato dessert comes with coffee, yogurt, mango, and vanilla flavors. What can I say, it's gelato. If the constant bludgeoning from Korean cuisine has dulled your palate, it's going to taste like watered down ice cream. If you can't appreciate the delicacy, go with the tiramisu.
Bottom line, Trattoria is a great restaurant. I imagine that many first dates here have culminated in consensual blowjobs and on this blog, consensual acts of sex are second only to interracial ones. But regardless of how your post-dining experience turns out to, Franco's cooking will have you excited to come back and try the rest of the menu.
Directions: Seoul National University, five minutes out of exit 2. This subway stop is not Kyodae, it is south on the Green line. Come for the pasta, stay for the blowjobs.