It’s been quite some time since I last visited Cucina Enoteca, but when out of town guests are wanting Italian somewhere near Irvine Spectrum, it’s a no-brainer that we end up here.
We are here over Thanksgiving weekend and it is surprisingly quiet, which is an absolute delight, given how much I dread going to the Spectrum these days with its constant expansions and impossible traffic situations especially this time of year.
A beautiful table on the patio awaits us, and we settle into the comforts of this eclectic corner rather quickly, the kids on one side, and the adults on the other.
We start with Burnt Brussels Sprout ($9) served with Ivan’s hot sauce, which adds a lovely kick to the tasty sprouts.
Stuffed Fried Squash Blossoms ($12.50) has been a favorite since the beginning. These tender squash blossoms envelop gorgeous lemon ricotta within, which give each bite an airy crunch, coupled with an unctuous finish. The mint arugula gremolata brightens up the heavier aspects of this dish.
In terms of salads, we enjoy Arugula + Tomato ($9.50) dotted with shaved parmesan, and hint of bitterness from the radicchio. The aged balsamic adds an elevated flavor profile on the palate.
Chioggia Beet + Pink Grapefruit Salad ($14) is another excellent salad choice. The whipped crescenza is soft and creamy, and when coupled with mustard greens, frisée, smoked almond, hemp and saba, come together for a most delightful bite of varying flavors and textures every single time.
Of course, one can’t possibly visit Cucina Enoteca without trying one of their pizzas. The Casalingo Pepperoni + Fennel Sausage Pizza ($17.50) is a meat lovers pizza topped with flavor-punching pepperoni and fennel sausage. Add to that mozzarella and peppadew pepper, you get heat, as well as substance in this very satisfying pizza.
Those wanting flavor, but nothing spicy will love the Guanciale + Delicata Squash Pizza ($16). The smoked mozzarella kicks it up a notch, while the pepita pesto livens up the whole pie with a refreshing burst of freshness.
Cucina Enoteca is still one of our favorite places to bring friends who want Italian fare when they visit us in OC. Make sure you reserve a table in advance as the restaurant gets pretty packed, and you wouldn’t want to wait, or be turned away without out.
532 Spectrum Center Dr
Irvine, CA 92618