The Irvine Spectrum has seen an influx of new restaurants and one of the latest additions has been Cucina Enoteca. Its sister location, Cucina Urbana has a long standing reputation with local San Diego residents and now, we in Orange County get a taste of what owner Tracy Borkum has to offer.
The restaurant itself is absolutely gorgeous. From the unique light fixtures to the eclectic knick knacks dotted around the dining room. I was surprised to learn that Tracy herself hand picks each and every piece and places them too. Her style is eclectic, a mix and match of everything which ultimately, comes together to create a look that is simply iconic.
We tried a lot of items from the menu, both lunch and dinner and here, I will only mention the ones that stood out.
Burrata + roasted garlic confit ($8) served with some crusty artisan bread is a perfect way to start your meal. The cheese is soft and creamy and is an ideal accompaniment to the similarly textured confit.
If you love a charcuterie platter, then partake in the Formaggi + salumi ($12/3 items, $15/4 items, $18/5 items). Cheese and meats vary so check with your server what’s available the day of your visit. Our platter consisted of Maytag Blue, Truffle Tremor, Crotonese, Prosciutto, Salami Picante and Finocchiona.
Stuffed Fried Squash Blossoms ($9.75) are filled with herb ricotta and lightly fried to perfection. These delicate fritters sit on top of purple basil pesto and cured lemon aioli and must be eaten right away for optimum flavor.
Mediterranean Mussels ($12.50) definitely was one of my favorites. The peppadew pepper, Kalamata olives, white wine butter layered the flavors well, but I didn’t feel the chile aioli was necessary. Torn garlic sourdough toast was the right choice for dipping into the wonderful sauce on the bottom of the bowl.
Burnt Brussels Sprouts ($6.50) with Ivan’s hot sauce is not to be missed. The Brussels sprouts are crisped on the outside and soft on the inside served with a spicy sauce which adds to the intensity of the flavors.
A pasta of the day ($13.95) is available daily and we tried linguine vongole with piquillo peppers. The pasta was well cooked, still al dente, and the clams were plump and meaty. The piquillo peppers lend a slight kick to the entire dish without overpowering.
I highly recommend the Polenta board ($14), a dish which changes daily. The creamy mascarpone polenta is always the same, but each day, a ragu is made — rabbit for us — to top this delectable polenta with. Braised rabbit with caramelized onions and carrot is served over polenta and assembled tableside.
I enjoyed the Cotechino Sausage Stuffed Squid ($13) with braised escarole, pine nuts, golden raisin caponata in a spicy tomato brodo even though it was a tad under-seasoned.
At the end of the meal, finish off with Zeppole ($7), Italian-style doughnut-holes filled with vanilla creme and coated with cinnamon sugar on top of dulce de leche.
Or alternatively, Bittersweet Chocolate Budino ($8.50) with chocolate chantilly and topped with salted chocolate cookie is another sweet treat I recommend. The dark chocolate is not overly sweet and very addictive, even to this non-sweet-toothed glutton.
The Sicilian Cannoli ($8) filled with orange chocolate ricotta crema and dipped with chocolate and pistachios are delectable! Get an order to share, you won’t regret it.
The restaurant is great both for lunch and dinner, but I love it during the day when you are able to see every little detail that’s been put into the decor. The restaurant also has a special wine program where you can buy any bottle of wine they have available at cost price and you can have it with your meal for $8 corkage.
31 Fortune Drive
Irvine, CA 92618