At first glance, Korean and Italian cuisines have absolutely nothing to do with each other. That might very well be the case upon further inspection as well—but 45-year-old culinary expert Tony Park has found a pretty creative way to combine the two gastronomic styles at his recently-rebranded restaurant Antoya, on 32nd Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, right in Koreatown.
"I always wanted to open an authentic Korean restaurant in midtown but I also wanted to add a New York flavor to it, to Americanize it a bit," Park, who was born to Korean parents in Italy and moved to New York after college, recalls. "Since I'm an Italian chef, I decided to infuse Italian culinary methods into the menu."
What that looks like in practice is a tomato kimchi, for example, a Gangnam-style sausage that's passed through an Italian meat grinder and is served as an Italian sausage usually is ("It looks Italian but tastes Korean!") and a rosemary- and mint-herbed lamb dish.
Park originally operated a franchise store of popular Korean brand Samwon Garden in the space currently occupied by Antoya. Once COVID-19 hit, the original franchise shuttered and Park was left with a store that he now had permission to morph into something unrestricted by franchise rules—hence his desire to simultaneously honor his Asian and European roots.
The chef and owner is no stranger to New York's dining scene: he is the powerhouse behind the various Angelina Bakery locations around town, Asian-inspired Italian bakeries that serve sweet and savory treats.
His bakeries are actually the reason why he landed on the name Antoya for his recently rebranded space in midtown. "Angelina Bakery is named after my daughter and my son Antonio was always sad that we didn't have a restaurant named after him," explains Tony. "In Korean, when you call your kid, you add 'ya' at the end as [a form of] endearment. We shorten his name to Anto and call him 'Antoya'—hence the restaurant's name."
Check out some photos of the space and food below:
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