Tuscan food that truly makes for a good evening

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Tuscan food that truly makes for a good evening

At Buonasera, if you make executive chef Mauro Giordano happy, you'll be treated to an outstanding Italian meal served with a big smile.

Mr. Giordano needs a full 15 minutes to prepare a pasta sauce from scratch and additional five minutes between each course. And the wait only escalates the excitement.

On the afternoon we visited, the courses delivered to our elegantly set table were sheer delight: a plate of paper-thin carpaccio, chicken salad topped with parmesan shavings, a green salad and a bowl of fettuccini with fresh tomato and arugula. (Or, he asks, would we like a serving of spaghetti with meat sauce?) A couple glasses of red wine, 1997 Campomagio Toscana Annata, complete the meal.

You won't find these dishes on the menu. Mr. Giordano, who heralds from Turin's famed Michelin one-star Ristorante Balbo, delights in whipping up special creations for his customers.

The fettuccini is a proper al dente, chewy and satisfying. The pungent parmesan shavings combine so well with the fresh extra-virgin olive oil, the arugula and the tomato. On the side, pleasantly bitter greens, slices of succulent Japanese pear and toasty walnuts are topped with a balsamic vinegar dressing.

Mr. Giordano's meat sauce is made with shredded rib-eye steak that had been dried to give a depth of aged meat.

"I'm used to preparing simple foods that meet the Michelin standard," he says. "In Korea, I'd like to satisfy our diners with traditional favorites and then try new things."

Buona sera, which means "good afternoon" in Italian, is the result of five years of planning by Forward Global Fashion of Korea and two Italians, Domenico Marzini and Giuseppe Berlinghieri. Their goal: create an Italian restaurant with authentic Italian food and spirit. The floor managers and the sommelier have been professionally trained in Italy. They are polite, pleasant and attentive, never pushy nor cocky. Most can speak English or Italian. Inspired by the pretty landscape of Borgo, a small village in Tuscany, the restaurant houses a three-story wine cellar, a piazza, or atrium and a garden.

While requested courses and special course meals are prepared by Mr. Giordano, a la carte dishes are made by David Jung, the award-winning chef formerly at the Hilton's Il Ponte. The two lead a team of 15 cooks working in Buonasera's open kitchen.

During his cook's tour of Italy, Mr. Jung was most impressed by a homey restaurant in Florence. What he tasted is best represented in one of Buonasera's appetizers. The old mixed seafood with extra-virgin olive oil (18,000 won) is laden with multiple layers of savory herbs. Dainty fried shrimps and scallops are served atop red cabbage, endive and alfalfa sprouts, which are sprinkled with parsley sauce and olive oil. Cherry tomatoes, rosemary and thyme surroud the seafood. And everything is served in silver spoons. (See the photo above.)

Except for classical vegetable soup and seafood soup, which need a stronger chicken stock, most of the menu's recommended dishes are worthy of compliments. Especially notable is fettuccini with lobster meat and rocket greens with brandy (21,000 won). The juicy meat of lobster, arugula and homemade fettuccini are delicious -- all wrapped in a buttery sauce.

Pan-fried tenderloin (33,500 won) is an epicure's delight. Cooked with a Marsala wine sauce, the U.S. beef has a subtle taste of roasted liver and almost satiny texture.

The savory house red, 2000 Barbera d'Asti 2000 (12,000 won a glass), is a perfect accompaniment.

Desserts -- chocolate souffle (8,000 won) and tiramisu (8,500 won) -- are endorsed by Italian expats. Complimentary homemade chocolates or cookies delivered with orders of espresso (6,000 won).

Special course meals for lunch cost 36,000 won and 63,000 won; for dinner 63,000 won and 66,000 won. Buonasera is in front of Dosan Park in Sinsa-dong. It is open from 11 a.m.-11 p.m. daily. Lunch goes from noon until 3 p.m., dinner from 6 p.m. until 11 p.m. Valet parking is available. For reservations, call (02) 543-8373.

by Ines Cho
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