Over recent years, Korea’s food landscape has been changing to include more international cuisines.
Walk down the streets of Itaewon and you’ll find places serving American barbeque, Indian curries, Italian pastas, and more.
However – although the food landscape has been changing, there are still missing pieces.
In the early 2000s, then-teacher Eugene Kim noticed that there was still something important missing from Korea’s international food scene.
A gap to be filled.
A triangular-shaped one.
in crust we trust;
Opening it’s first location in 2016, Gino’s introduced New York-style pizza to the Korean food scene.
And upon being featured on 수요미식회 (Wednesday Food Talk), a very famous restaurant show, Gino’s was catapulted to the masses.
The power of the media here is unbelievable.Eugene Kim
The very next day the show aired, on Thursday morning, there were probably 60-70 people lined up outside of the restaurant. We weren’t expecting that at all!
The second location, a slice shop across the street, opened as a result of the onrush of crowds. Here, the aim was to get more of that New-York Pizzeria vibe – where you can grab a slice instead of ordering a full pizza.
In 2018 and 2020, two other full dine-in spaces were opened in Apgujeong (Seoul) and Haeundae beach (Busan).
Every time we’ve opened a new location, that’s been a big deal. Because I never really ever believed it would go that far. And I like to say that each location is kind of unique. I never took the approach that I want every place to look the same. I didn’t want it to be like some kind of franchise. Each location will have a little bit of character and a little bit of that location.Eugene Kim
Korean vs. NY-style pizzas; so what is the difference?
From big franchises to small independent shops, pizzerias can be found on almost every other street in Korea. But they should come with a disclaimer: expect the unexpected.
Because Korean pizzas have flavours that you would not find on Italian or American ones.
Typically containing sweet elements, you can find toppings such as bulgogi and sweet potato. Some places also serve strawberries on their pizzas, which we’ll put up for moral debate at a later day. Although I have a strong feeling that Hawaiian pizza lovers and haters may unite in this one instance to banish it.
Finally, ordering Korean pizza would not be complete without it coming with a side of crispy, sweet pickle slices.
Now, forget about those sweeter elements that you’ll find on Korean pizzas – because New York-style pizza is a whole other ball game.
First, the crust is thicker and crispier along its edges, yet soft beneath its toppings.
While Korean pizza has multiple bells and whistles, NY-style pizza appears to stick closer to the basics. Traditional toppings include tomato sauce and shredded mozzarella cheese.
Gino’s prides itself to being authentic to NY pizzerias, and it starts at the basics: its ingredients.
One thing we do use is American pepperoni. We also import our tomatoes. We get our tomatoes from northern California. And we get our flour also – I won’t say what brand it is – but it is a special blend. It’s used by a very famous pizza maker out in the States. So we import that flour into Korea to make the more authentic kind of stuff.Eugene Kim
But what makes Gino’s special is not only their ingredients, but also their ovens and mixers.
[Our ovens] are expensive, high-tech ovens from Italy and Sweden. They’re the heart of the kitchen.Eugene Kim
Anything that’s really iconic towards NY pizzerias, you’ll probably find on the menu.
[re: menu creation process] what’s on the menu are foods that I really missed a lot… foods that are really iconic towards NY pizzerias.Eugene Kim
Eugene’s top picks
So what does the pizza wizard extraordinaire himself recommend as his top favourites?
Appetizer: garlic knots!
It shouldn’t come as a surprise (although.. yes, yes it did), but Korean garlic bread is sweet. Not the typical Western salty and savoury taste that you would expect. Think of it more as.. a dessert?
But at Gino’s they do it the NY way – salty, savoury, and absolutely to-die for!
Wings: hot buffalo wings!
They used to serve the wings with their original dipping sauce of blue cheese, but have transitioned to using their own ranch sauce.
And from the classic pizzas? Pepperoni and NY Margherita!
Start your night out with friends at Gino’s pizza!
Enjoy delicious pizza, incredible appetizers, and a great atmosphere.