Food among Italians is often a controversial topic to discuss. A slightly tribal concept where grandmother’s red sauce is often presented as the ultimate sauce. But one thing I found most Italians to agree on is that the island of Sicily has the best food on the peninsula.
What is often not discussed is why: the centuries of conquest of the Arabs, Spaniards, Greeks and Romans, each of these cultures leaving traditions, ingredients and cooking methods that are today synonyms of Sicilian cuisine. Sicily is the embodiment of a melting pot of cultures that create a mix of dishes that today are uniquely Sicilian.
You might be wondering what this discussion of Sicily has to do with Korean barbecue, but Tony Park, an ethnic Korean, Sicilian by adoption grew up on the Italian island. But over the past 20 years, has invested in the Manhattan food scene. Her love for food began in Sicily, in her grandmother’s house.
“I was brought up in the kitchen. My grandmother was an excellent cook. And my earliest memories helped her make cream puffs and pies. So at 13, I knew I wanted to be a chef but I was still too young – the pizzeria in town wouldn’t hire me, ”so he swept before the owners came in hopes of changing things. notice the owner. “After a few months they let me throw away the garbage and I got my first job. So I went in and started cleaning, but soon I started making pizza dough, couldn’t get enough of cooking. According to Tony Park, entrepreneur and owner of Modern Korean barbecue Antoya.
That’s when Park’s life in the food space began. But as he got older, Park decided to swap the island of Sicily for the island of Manhattan dreaming of a larger world to conquer, he wanted to honor his Korean heritage but adding a certain Italian influence to the dishes served, for give a more unique flavor. offers what other restaurants had in K-town Manhattan.
“We are contaminating Korean food with Italian influences. We are still Korean food but it is served in a more modern style. The flavors are Korean but with an accent of Italian flavor profile, ”says Park.
Park is an infinitely creative entrepreneur – and despite the impossible hardships of this past year – he and the few staff who remained during Covid’s peak period got even more involved. Suggest dishes like “Gangnam sausage – you know, like the song.” It bears his name, but Gangnam is an area of Korea where young and wealthy Koreans live. It’s a nice neighborhood a bit like Soho. It’s a small piece of rib marinated with Italian spices like rosemary and garlic and put in a sausage casing, and we serve it like a wheel right at the table ”, like in a traditional Italian trattoria, Park said.
Antoya is a new concept, replacing SamWon Garden, a more traditional restaurant, best known for its diamond-cut beef, enhancing the umami flavor of the meat. This, along with new items like sea urchin pasta and a steak in a pesto marinade, is featured in the new Antoya restaurant. Much of this change is due to Covid, with the drastic demographic shifts in New York City, Park knew it was time to rebrand.
“After the corona, the demographics of New York City changed, so New York City doesn’t have the same office culture, big parties after dinners, but instead there is more young people. The new rich people have more money thanks to bitcoin or stocks. Internet stuff. So our new customers are younger and thirsty for something more modern. They want the fusion, they don’t just want a traditional experience, ”says Park.
“Now, it’s a new clientele that allows us to start from scratch.
And he responds to new dietary demands with fresh flavor combinations by uniting the Italian traditions he grew up with and his Korean origin, all in the melting pot of New York.
Park found the gastronomic answer by digging deep into his roots, remembering the flavors that inspired his love of flavors and his thirst for cooking. Park strives to recreate the flavors he had in his nonna’s kitchen, reminiscent of a sense of coziness in the unexpected surroundings of a trendy Korean barbecue in Korea Town.
“With the rebranding, sales increased by 30%. They love the new vibe. Instead of traditional soju, we are now making soju sangria with yogurt soju and fresh fruit. We even project an LED light in it, it’s very visual, ”explains Park.
Park is also working on another Korean Antoya barbecue set to open this spring at 243 East 58th Street, the townhouse that housed Felidia that he recently bought. He would never admit it, but being in the house of one of the most beloved Italian grandmothers of all Americans would certainly give the best honor to the time spent with his Nonna in the kitchen.