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Pacific edition, Thursday, May 17, 2007

SEOUL — Walking past bottles of wine and olive oil serving as decorations and seating ourselves on antique-looking furniture, my family and I are almost convinced we’ve walked into one of those “authentic” Italian restaurants back in the States.

But we’re in Seoul, at an Insadong district restaurant called Agio.

The restaurant features pizza made the old-fashioned way, with a cook using a long pole with a wood paddle on the end to send pies to their hot date with a brick oven.

The environment is family-friendly. At least my family finds it friendly.

“It’s really good. Tastes fresh,” my wife said as she inhales her third slice of barbecue chicken pizza.

Meanwhile my daughter, covered in spaghetti noodles and Bolognese sauce, giggles her way through the cheesy meal.

Haven’t heard a word out of my son. His mouth has been loaded with pasta since we got served. He looks happy, though.

The produce is obviously fresh — it tastes like it was picked this morning.

And I’m glad to see a Korean restaurant that finally mastered cheese. I was beginning to lose hope.

Agio serves a variety of Italian dishes ranging from cheese spaghetti with Bolognese sauce to pizzas topped with fresh produce.

“Barbecue chicken” and “margarita” pizzas may not sound terribly authentic, but the taste is a lot closer to what Americans are used to than what many of the chain pizza restaurants in Korea serve.

“Common pizzas are made by those companies,” said manager Shin So-young. “We make our pizza ourselves and then bake it in the fireplace, so it’s very fresh and very delicious.”

To see previous After Hours reviews, go to stripes.com/afterhours.

Agio, Seoul

Prices: Pasta dishes range between $9 to $14. Pizzas ranges from $16 to $20.

Specialties: Freshly made Italian food

English menu: Yes, but descriptions of items are in Korean.

Dress: Come as you are.

Clientele: An even mix of Koreans and foreigners. Insadong is a tourist-friendly area and the restaurant is less than two blocks form the Seoul Immigration Office.

Location: From the Seoul Immigration Office, turn left and walk until you get to the first major intersection. Turn left again until you reach the end of the block and turn left once more. Across the street is a Buddhist temple, down a small side street is Agio. The restaurant has no parking lot, but there is a public parking lot less than 100 yards away.

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