Urban Kitchen to Open Del Mar's Newest Hotspot | CUCINA enoteca Opens September 29!

Summer corn stuffed agnolotti

September 24, 2013

A group of San Diego epicureans swarmed the unfinished space in Del Mar's Flower Hill Promenade to get a behind-the-scenes tour of what will soon be the newest restaurant in Tracy Borkum's Urban Kitchen Group.  Although the opening is a bit later than originally anticipated, come September 29, CUCINA enoteca will be a guaranteed North County culinary destination where foodies and socialites flock.  The friendly and cohesive staff is eager to serve up family style, modern Italian fare with the casual California twist that diners have come to know and love from Tracy's restaurants.

CUCINA enoteca found its home in a spacious 7,000 sq. ft., loft-like space which boasts a central exhibition kitchen, huge walls of wine, the original and rugged vaulted wood ceiling, and varied seating options, including long communal tables and a second floor outdoor bar patio.  Once completed, the second story will also house a garden where herbs and produce will be grown for use in the restaurant.  The interior has been constructed with a focus on reclaimed and reused materials, and although the space is similar in design to the other CUCINAs, there is certainly a little 'ode to the equestrian' strewn into the decor to honor the locale's proximity to the Thoroughbred Club's racetracks.

The menu at CUCINA enoteca is modern Italian with California influence.  All pastas are made in house and the eatery strives to use the freshest local produce and organic and sustainable products to offer a diverse menu of items (mostly) at or below $20.  The restaurant embraces "family style" meals and a new apertif program will be instituted to bring a bit of Italy to San Diego.

During our preview, we settled in with some Prosecco and tray passed spuntini (snacks).  A beautiful latte marshmallow wowed the crowd, mixing baby heirloom tomato, basil and 18 year balsamic 'caviar' (think little poppable balls of delicious balsamic) for a sweet and savory concoction.  The barolo soaked fig with whipped fromage blanc and prosciutto was a beautiful blend of California figs and Italian cured meat.  The rabbit sausage took the crown due to the flavor and texture combination of the salty sausage, celery, dried plum and crispy rye toast.  We didn't pass up seconds and thirds on that one!

We were next served an antipasti di mare - a kumamoto oyster with white balsamic granita and opal basil, a chopped littleneck clam with maple garlic and candied blood orange, and a local stone crab with tomato butter and fennel pollen.  This dish showcased fresh California seafood, each with an inspired twist on its natural flavors.

For our pasta course, we received a fabulous summer corn stuffed agnolotti, a creamy and pillowy ravioli of the Piedmont region of Italy, topped delicately with breakfast radish, sorrel and chili oil.  The creaminess of the cheesy corn stuffing and the fresh pasta combined with the sweetness of the corn struck a perfect contrast to the spiciness of the infused chili oil, culminating in a very successful dish.

Next, Chef Joe Magnanelli came out to slice up his whole roasted suckling pig, specifically the loin stuffed with sausage.  The dish was sided by grilled radicchio, roasted root vegetable, and mascarpone mashed potatoes. Sexy sauces like mustard sherry sugo, endive apricot mostarda and salsa verde accompanied to enhance the flavors.  The dish reminded me of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with a twist, and I enjoyed every last bite.

For dessert we indulged in a classic espresso semifreddo with a pistacchio orange biscotti. For those of you not familiar, a semifreddo is a semi-frozen dessert with the light and airy texture of frozen mousse, uniting gelato and whipped cream into a rich and creamy chocolate heaven. The tangy orange of the biscotti cut the sweetness every so delicately, and added a nice textural crunch.

Like the rest of the Urban Kitchen Group family, CUCINA enoteca will also be a retail outlet for pretty much everything in the house.  Of course, the wine shop, which guests will saunter through upon entry, will be fully operational, allowing customers to purchase bottles for takeout or bring-in (with corkage fee), but everything else in the restaurant is also for sale, from the napkins, to the dish ware and silverware, to the comfy barstool you always love - if you want it, just ask, and the negotiations begin.

CUCINA enoteca Del Mar intends to 'soft open' on September 29.  The restaurant is located at 2740 Via de la Valle in Del Mar.  For up to date information, visit CUCINA enoteca Del Mar's Facebook Page.
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