Posted by Chubbo Chubbington
I am sitting at a small wooden table in a wooden chair, my bags, coat, scarf, and hat all hanging carelessly over its back, offending fine diners everywhere, I’m sure. Please, oh please ignore me as I dump 2 packets of organic sugar into this latte. I usually don’t embarrass easily, but I was sharing a morning coffee with Jeong Geum-Sook 정 금숙, the owner of Acozza, a restaurant, café, and art gallery on a tiny backstreet in Heungeop 흥업, a small town in Wonju 원주.
Acozza has been humbly sitting on a small hill at the top of a natural stone stairway since 2008, when the project that Jeong started in 2007 finally materialized. Jeong had a vision of a place that made art accessible to the people, served Italian-inspired dishes, and poured perfect cups of coffee. After spending time in Italy and studying at an Italian cooking school in Seoul, she dreamed up Acozza’s modest but satisfying menu. It features fresh in-house coffee (hard to ignore the Probat solid drum roaster in the corner), pizzas, pastas, and a variety of wines.
Not only does Jeong bring quality organic products and local meats (never imported) to the table, she also brings art into the lives of her diners. Each time I’ve visited Acozza, the atmosphere has been wildly different. The first time I tasted (read gorged on) the Ham Pizza 헴 피자, I chewed in the glow of Mix and Media 믹스맨믹스미디아, a multimedia art presentation including multi-screen installations, prints, and video. The second time, I didn’t even pretend to share as I devoured an entire pizza on my own under the wide eyes of the work of artist Kim Ji Young, with the paint & textile patterns of Kim Young Mi over my shoulder. They were only two of the several artists exhibiting in Propose 프로포즈.
On my third visit and the opening for exhibition Imago Dei 이마고데이, I chomped on a variety of complimentary dishes and discovered The Calzone surrounded by artists’ impressions of God. (Yes capitalized because after this one all other calzones will cease to exist for you.) I’m pretty sure that the Lord himself ordained this master of all turnovers. It is filled with fresh mozzarella, grana padano, and ricotta cheeses. I mean, grana padano was created by Cisterian monks, so I’m pretty sure it’s holy.
This day, our chatter is supervised by photographs of Beautiful Wonju 악_어_꿈- 아름다운 거리를 꿈꾸다. Jeong is reserved, but her passion is apparent in the way she speaks about her experiences, how they’ve shaped her, and how she’s brought the best of them all together here, in Acozza. She says that her faith inspires her to keep working, to keep putting on exhibitions, to keep making good food. And I say, Amen sister! because it’s one of my favorite places here in Wonju. And y’all. That Ham Pizza is not a joke. It is Jeju ham, handmade, perfectly sliced, and layered over fresh mozzarella cheese, a simple but beautiful sauce, and finished with crushed black pepper. And if you ask real nice, they’ll throw some fresh basil on top.
Also, Seoulites, have no fear! You too can experience the holiness of The Calzone. Wonju is a mere hour and a half by bus and terribly convenient for a day trip. Acozza is worth an out-of-town lunch date, for sure. If you decide to come, look me up. I’ll join you for some art, coffee, and pizza. But don’t expect me to share.