Rejoice! Pizza by the slice has arrivedThere are a few questions that Itaewon locals have been asking for years and years.
There’s “Why is there a mosque right above Hooker Hill?” And “What the heck do the Nigerians here do?” And, of course, “Woman or man?”
But another question from that list ― “Why doesn’t anyone start selling pizza slices here?” ― can now be crossed off.
That’s because Kim Hee-chol, an Itaewon merchant off and on since 1987, just opened a little pizza counter in the alley just back of Burger King. The new place, New York Slice, looks promising.
Early in his Itaewon-based career, Mr. Kim was involved with the local leather shops North Beach and First Avenue. Later, he moved to Shenyang, China, where he ran a pottery business for three years. Most recently, he managed the sandwich shop Schlotzky’s, which closed a few months ago.
The pizza idea came when he realized what expats have been griping about forever: When you’re in Itaewon late and have the drunk munchies, your food choices are mostly unappealing.
“After the regular restaurants close, foreigners have nowhere to go,” Mr. Kim said Wednesday, the second day the shop was open. “After drinking, they leave the bars hungry, but hardly anyone sells anything besides Korean food. So I want to serve them.”
Asked whether he considers himself a pizza expert, Mr. Kim said yes. But the proof, of course, is in the product. New York Slice offers two: decent-sized slices topped with meat and veggies with ample cheese at 2,000 won ($2) each, and pizza baguettes at 2,500 won. I tried both and they’re terrific. I nodded when Mr. Kim’s friend and consultant, Tom Casey, insisted that the shop’s slices were twice as good as Pizza Hut’s at half the price.
Of course, that would make them four times better in value, which must have the Pizza Hut people scared (if they’re any good at math).
Another person who seems scared by New York Slice is the lady who runs the egg sandwich cart across the alley. I wanted to ask her what she thought about the competition, but Mr. Casey said I shouldn’t, adding, “trust me, she’s not happy.”
But Mr. Kim sure is. “The work here will be hard, because I’ll be working longer hours [1 p.m. to 3 a.m.],” he said. “But I’m happy, because everyone really likes our food.”
On Wednesday night, everyone in town, like local shopowners and bar staff, seemed to be coming for the pizza. Many ordered whole pies, a bargain at 10,000 won each.
While waiting for Mr. Kim to do the boxing and slicing, they were busy chatting and bumping into each other. So New York Slice seems a potential social hub. Mr. Casey said they may set up some stools and tables soon to encourage that. That’s good, because it would be the perfect location for people watching and general contemplation.
And for asking the remaining questions on the list.
by Mike Ferrin