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La Coppia contemporary Italian restaurant – A pleasant surprise

Italians living abroad are often wary of restaurants prominently displaying our national flag and sporting Italian names, so I was dubious as I approached La Coppia in the alleys behind Hyundai Dept Store, despite my Korean lunch companion having warmly recommended it (or perhaps because of it).

As I clumsily tried to brave the three wooden steps leading to the front door with my bulky stroller, we were met by a member of the staff who helped lift said stroller up the stairs (a courtesy not to be taken for granted in Korea). This kind gesture set the tone for the entire lunch experience — while the interior is very pleasant but not memorable, the staff really went above and beyond to make us feel welcome and satisfy our many requests (being Italian, pregnant, and with a toddler in tow, I was admittedly not the easiest customer).

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I opted for the lunch menu which included a small selection of appetizers, a pasta dish, and a choice of tenderloin, sirloin or lamb chops (for slightly different prices but all below 30,000 won), plus a bread basket, dessert, and tea or coffee. Portions were understandably small but the food did add up in the end and I left pleasantly full.

The appetizer entree included a taste of caprese salad (with buffalo mozzarella, cherry tomatoes and balsamic vinegar reduction), Caesar salad, and prosciutto & melone (raw ham and honeydew melon). Pasta of the day was carbonara (cream and bacon) but the chef graciously agreed to replace it with a small portion of lasagna to accommodate my child’s explicit request — she’s not even two but she already knows good food.

My choice for protein was the tenderloin, perfectly cooked with a side of roasted veggies and potato mash. I was not asked how I preferred it so you may want to specify your preference if you don’t like your meat medium rare. The bread basket, which included homemade grissini, focaccia and garlic bread, was spontaneously refilled three times, again a courtesy not to be expected elsewhere. To round up a wonderful lunch, a dessert of gelato – gianduia and pistacchio in our case – and a choice of either coffee or a selection of teas (I went for vanilla rooibos but longed for the coffee as it smelled divine).

The dishes were swiftly replaced and the service was attentive and prompt. The chef personally served and introduced every dish and even the cutlery was replaced with every entree.

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I definitely recommend La Coppia also to those with young kids as I did notice other patrons had small children too and the staff was very friendly and even entertained my very active daughter during the meal. Everything I tried was superb and I will be sure to return and taste their pizzas too as their brick oven looks very promising.

UPDATE: I did return to try the pizza and a couple other favourites I had only had a taste of during my previous visit. My lunch companion and I ordered a caprese salad, a lasagna and a crudo & rucola pizza.

The caprese salad was surprisingly abundant. This time a dressing was added, together with the fresh basil and lots of balsamic vinegar. I would probably have replaced the dressing with just olive oil and salt, but it tasted very good anyway.

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Next the lasagna… delicious as the previous time! Again, a sauce was added on the side that I would have probably left out, but I’m something of a purist in the kitchen, so that may be just me.

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My lunch companion opted for a pizza, and I had a slice of that too. Very good sauce and mozzarella, lots of arugula and good quality raw ham. The dough was thin but not too much, and cooked to perfection. The presentation was also beautiful.

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At the end of the meal, before we could order dessert, two mini-portions of gelato arrived at the table: coconut, pistachio, mint with chocolate chips, and fiordilatte. Delicious. It was so good that I couldn’t keep my daughter’s hands out of the picture! She just wanted to taste it there and then.

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Finally, tea and coffee were served. Upon leaving we had a nice chat with the chef who told us he studied Italian cuisine in Belluno. He has added a few touches here and there to please a Korean clientele but he’s happy to change his dishes according to the client’s requests.

Another very nice lunch experience, I think I’ve become a regular already!

Address: Ulsan, Nam-Gu, Samsan-dong 1573-14 (Pinned on the Interactive Map, under Dining, as “La Coppia New Location”)

tel 052-267-1865

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