Tracy Borkum's empire expands into North County with the newest addition to the Urban Kitchen Family, Cucina Enoteca. If you've ever been to it's older sister in Bankers Hill, Cucina Urbana, this new restaurant brings you the best of the previous but younger and more fresh. You could say Cucina Enoteca is like Cucina Urbana with a facelift. The menu and food is as delicious, if not more, than the rest of its restaurant brothers and sisters. As soon as we heard of the opening we just had to give them it a try.
We decided to visit on Thursday with a group of friends to try out their half-off pizza special they call Thrifty Thursday. Of course we didn't just end up with pizza, but we went with their recommendations. Here's our experience.
We breezed from Downtown to Del Mar after work and made it just in time to place our order for Thrifty Thursday. Right by the highway exit, the place was easy to find. First impression: impressed. The entrance to Cucina Enoteca was succulently decorated with live plants, which echoed throughout the entire restaurant.
We checked in at the front and were asked if we wanted to sit inside or outside. Outside? It didn't look like there was an outside, but I guess what she meant was the 2nd floor outdoor/indoor set-up. "Sure, why not?!" I said. It looked amazing from outside. We walked through bottles of wine on display and a flight of stairs, appropriately decorated with race horses paying homage to the race track down the street. It was as good, and even better ten-fold from the inside than how it looked from outside.
We were sat on a bench table, on the perimeter of the area and froze for a minute or two, taking in the atmosphere. Our server, asked what kind of water we wanted and left us for some time. "No rush," she said. It was fine, as the rest of our party was not here yet.
Taking it all in, it didn't even feel like we were outside in a shopping center. The contrast of all the colors gave this area such a great vibe and brings you to another place. It feels like a giant adult luxury bird cage with hanging papasan-looking chairs and modern-chic lanterns in the ceiling. Probably one of the decorations that made this place feel really warm and alive were the fresh plants everywhere. It really tied in the farm-to-table movement. It just screams local, sustainable and organic.
We quickly placed our order to take advantage of the 50% off pizza during Thrifty Thursday, because we really want to try out all their recommendations. We ordered the margherita, pepperoni + fennel sausage, and the fig + gorgonzola pizza.
While waiting for the rest of our group to arrive, I gave myself a tour of the restaurant. The brief walk from downstairs to upstairs didn't give me enough time to peek into the dining areas, but lucky for me, the stairs on the 2nd floor gives you a voyeuristic view of the dining areas. No, we are not being photobombed by horse toys, those are the hanging horses I was talking about, the horses paying homage to the Del Mar Racetrack. The design inside is a little different than upstairs, as it has a more down-to-earth east-coast vibe with a dash of modern beach.
Finally, the rest of the group arrives, as well as the first round of our food order. The group was so hungry, a slice was grabbed before the quintessential "Instagram" food shot. Our friends hee and haw about how amazing this new restaurant is and how the ambiance and design is so fresh and how great the execution of the pizza was. The execution of the pizza flavors in their mouth is what they were referring to. Cucina Enoteca was right in their recommendations. My personal favorite was the fig and gorgonzola pizza.
While stuffing our faces with pizza, we got really thirsty. Water was at hand, but it was a different kind of thirst. It can only be quenched with a good glass of wine. Cucina Enoteca has an extensive wine list and if you haven't heard, the cost of a bottle at Cucina Enoteca is at cost. Just as if you were in a wine shop buying a bottle of wine. The only thing is, you have to pay an $8.00 corkage fee. That's nothing compared to restaurant mark-ups!
The lady in the group made the decision of the wine and the choice is a 2009 Tenuta Nanfro Cerasuolo di Vittoria, one of the most distinctive wines produced on the Italian island of Sicily. What does that mean? It means it's really good.
I guess 3 pizzas is just not enough for a party of 4, so we decided to order a little bit more. We ordered the grilled octopus, cooked in pickled beach mushroom, charred spring onion, acqua pazza aioli, black garlic and coriander vinaigrette. Of course you can't eat at an Italian restaurant without having pasta, so we also ordered the short rib pappardelle. It was delicately cooked with cremini mushrooms, carrots and parmigiano.
OMG. After reading what I just wrote, my stomach grumbled again. Maybe it's time for a second visit.
We thought we were full but we just had to order dessert. Everything we've eaten, the conversations, laughter amongst the table, the sharing of wine and good times with good friends pushed us over to the edge to squeeze as much time as we can to prolong this dinner so we shared an order of the salted caramel budino.
We didn't want to leave, but it was time for us to go home. We slowly made our exit before saying goodbye to one of our newest favorite restaurants.
I guess, you could say that this place is pretty cool. Alright, it's more than than just cool, it was amazing. Cucina Enoteca's addition to the San Diego food scene continues to fuel the flame of the organic sustainable movement. On the quality of food, ambiance and customer service, I would give this place a 10. The only downside, I see is that it's 20-30 minutes outside of Downtown, but it was definitely worth the drive.