Cucina Urbana has been one of my favorite restaurants in SD for a while. Its somewhere I know serves consistently awesome seasonal food and has consistently awesome service. Whenever I have friends or family visiting I love bringing them to Cucina, especially if its Thursday and they have their half off pizzas deal (TRY THE MUSHROOM PIZZA!).
Ok disclaimer. The restaurant is kindof dark inside so I had to use flash to take most of the pictures hence everything is very contrast-y. Let’s pretend this is a review done chiaroscuro style yes?
Cucina is a modern Italian restaurant: their appetizers consist of salads, vasi (spreads that are served with bread), and other small plates like fried ricotta-stuffed squash blossoms. For mains you have many pizza options, pasta and regular meat-centric entrees. We decided to stick with appetizers this time; for some reason lately I’ve been really enjoying ordering two appetizers instead of one entree.
DRINKS: They have a great drink program here, including some non-alcoholic concoctions. They infuse some of their liquors at home and for Christmas they did a panettone-infused vodka, such a neat idea. This time I ordered their White Sangria. Its crisp and refreshing and comes with cubes of green apple and orange.
For the bread basket they usually give you white loaf bread and then a toasted brown bread. Even though I love brown bread this one is not my favorite. It also comes with plain butter. And yes I know that picture is super bright.
APPETIZERS: I love their Lacinato Kale + Hearts of Romaine Caeser here. They mix kale and romaine with a super savoury Caeser dressing. They then add shaved parmesan cheese, English mustard bread crumbs and fried “esca”. Esca is Italian for bait and these are super salty little fried fish. Not to everyones liking I imagine but I thought they were a good addition. The mustard bread crumbs also add a nice sharpness to the salad.
We also ordered one of the vasi, I hear the chicken liver one is great if you’re into that kind of thing but we decided to try the Burrata and Roasted Garlic Confit vasi. Burrata is like fresh mozzarella but instead of being made with milk its made with cream so its richer and creamier and oozier as opposed to a solid cheese. The burrata comes inside a jar and its perfectly seasoned with herbs. The roasted garlic comes on the side and its meltingly soft and ready to be squeezed out of the clove and smeared onto the bread. Since the burrata was seasoned it alone was delicious on bread but with the garlic this was fantastic. This came with a grilled bread, white loaf bread, and brown bread. My only complaint with this and is that our grilled bread tasted a little too charred but they happily brought us more non-grilled bread so this was not a problem.
Another great appetizer to share is their meat and cheese board, the Formaggi+Salumi. You can pick 3, 4, or 5 items and then choose how many meats and cheeses you want (if you picked 5 you could do all cheese or 3 cheese and 2 meats, etc.). We decided on 4 and did 3 cheeses and 1 meat. You have quite a few options for meats and cheeses and the servers are more than willing to help you if you are not sure what you would like. For cheeses we did a Parmesan-like cheese, a younger goat cheese and another mild cheese (we don’t like blue cheese!). For meat we ended up deciding on Coppa, a cured pork collar. They also had salami, prosciutto, and another meat I can’t remember.
The board came with white loaf bread and the brown bread as well as various spreads + olives. In the picture you can see at the top left corner is what is left of our olives, these were a mix of black and green and they were in olive oil with herbs. To the right of that is a red pepper spread, next is grain mustard, regular mustard, strawberry jam and on the far right is honeycomb and fresh sliced apples. Basically this is one of my favorite meat and cheese boards because with all the spreads, olives, breads and fruit you can literally make every bite you take different. You can have a savoury bite with the coppa and cheese and red pepper spread then maybe have just coppa and mustard. Then switch to sweet and have some of the goat cheese with honeycomb and apple. I know the cheese portions look small but we couldn’t even finish this.
Lastly I had ordered a grilled octopus appetizer. The server came to check if I still wanted it given the cornucopia of food we had in front of us and I said yes. As soon as she walked into the kitchen I changed my mind. I could barely finish my salad and just could not eat another dish…unless it was dessert. So I called her and apologized and she was so nice about canceling it. This is another thing I love about this restaurant; they always go above and beyond with service. Last time we were here we wanted to order this baked squash goat cheese appetizer we had loved but unfortunately it was seasonal and it was gone, our waiter felt bad and gave us the ricotta-stuffed fried squash blossoms on the house saying maybe we’d like these instead (they were awesome). Another time we sat at the communal table and there was a father and daughter eating across from us. We had ordered at the same time but we got our entrees first and after waiting for theirs for a while the server came with free glasses of wine for them, apologizing profusely for the long wait. Seriously not only is everyone super pleasant here if there ever is a mistake they fix it immediately and make sure your experience is a positive one.
DESSERT: So yes I switched that octopus appetizer for dessert. Naturally. We went with the Pineapple Coconut Panna Cotta. This was a fairly decent sized cup of coconut panna cotta topped with cooked pineapple and crumbled sometypeof cookies. I loved the pineapple in this as it was sweet and tart and a good contrast to the creamy panna cotta. The panna cotta was not as good by itself as I thought it needed a little more sweetness and the texture was a little less creamy than I like my panna cotta. If you don’t like coconut too fear not because it was not overly coconut-y at all.
Overall it was a great experience and I can’t wait to come back on a Wednesday when they have their burger + beer special.
White Sangria (Happy Hour price) $5
Burrata + Roasted Garlic Confit $8
Lacinato Kale + Hearts of Romaine Caeser $9.50
Formaggi + Salumi (4 items) $15
Pineapple Coconut Panna Cotta $8
TOTAL: $49.14 (w/ tax)
505 Laurel St.
San Diego, CA 92101