>> Sunday, July 22, 2012
Price: $7-13 appetizers, $14-25 entrees (lunch)
Location: 31 Fortune Dr, Irvine, CA 92618
The Quick Bit
+ interesting and diverse menu selection
+ great trendy atmosphere and decor
Δ prices could be more approachable for lunch
Cucina Enoteca is the latest restaurant of the Urban Kitchen Group (better known for running Cucina Urbana and Kensington Grill in San Diego). Through whatever forces of fate, I actually ended up trying their restaurant in Irvine before any of the ones in San Diego.
Cucina Enoteca is basically Cucina Urbana moved north to Irvine; the restaurant is owned by Tracy Borkum and the kitchen is headed by Executive Chef Joe Magnanelli. Chef Magnanelli is also in charge of Cucina Urbana, and focuses on trendy takes of Italian classics while bringing a modern feel to the dishes. While Cucina Urbana claims a $20 limit on all dishes, I noticed many of the lunch entrees at Cucina Enoteca had creeped into the mid $20 range, so the pricing aspect of the restaurants doesn't seem to align.
|spring risotto - sea beans, asparagus, tomato|
The risotto was well cooked and had a nice flavor for a vegetarian dish. The dish was balanced so the flavors of vegetables were able to shine through the rice.
|CE brandt farms burger - braised short rib, fiscalini cheddar, honey mustard aioli, truffle fries|
This was the best dish of the meal. This is the famous Cucina Urbana burger taken north. The burger was well cooked and the short rib gave the flavor an extra punch to take the flavors more complex. The fries were cooked very well.
|lamb bolognese rigatoni - artichoke, feta, nepitella|
The pasta was slightly overcooked, but the bolognese was well made. Overall, the dish was unremarkable, but also was not outstanding either.
With my short glimpse into Cucina Enoteca, I feel that there is some potential in the restaurant. However, it doesn't seem to have fully captured the magic that I hear about Cucina Urbana in San Diego. I feel that I should visit Cucina Urbana soon to give the proper comparison. If Cucina Enoteca is able to fully bring the Cucina Urbana experience to Irvine, then I expect the restaurant to be a success.