Restaurants & Bars 21

Cucina Urbana: Another Great Experience

mayache | Mar 8, 201001:14 PM

I am unsure about posting this for fear of increasing the popularity of an already too-full restaurant, but gotta give a great spot its due.

My girl and I went to Cucina Urbana Saturday night for dinner (this was my second time there). We shared all the following dishes.

We were pretty hungry already walking in, so we ordered some focaccia, which comes with their sun-dried tomato pesto. I think the gf may be leaving me for that pesto, which was quite good. Very sweet, and in fact I won a bet that it has no sugar or other sweetener added (the sweetness comes from the tomatoes alone).

We opened the meal with their daily polenta board, which is possibly the best thing on the menu. The creamy polenta is made with mascarpone, and topped with a ragu which changes daily. In this case it was duck, port, and mustard greens, three of my favorite things. The dish was even better than expected, loaded with flavor and "unctuous", to apply an overused food-reviewing term.

Next up was the mint fettuccine with lamb sausage, a classic English flavor combo turned Italian. The sausage was terrific, packed with lamb flavor and definitely the centerpiece of the dish. The fettuccine wasn't too minty or overbearing like mint jelly; very subtle, you could taste the mint if you ate the pasta by itself, but in combination with the sausage was clearly serving its proper place as a condiment. Also in the dish were some tomatoes (roasted? confit? not sure...) which once again radiated sweetness. Only off-note in the dish was the pieces of roasted parsley root, which were bland and out of place. Maybe I just don't like parsley root.

Our final entree was a veal scaloppine, with a mushroom marsala sauce and the famous umbrian lentils. Quite tasty all around, in particular the lentils which complimented the veal nicely. That came with speck, which we ordered on the side since I don't eat pork. Girlfriend reported she enjoyed it.

At this point we were overstuffed, so we decided, "Hey! Let's order dessert!" This was actually the only weak point of the evening. It was a bread pudding with rhubarb compote, roasted apples, and pistachio gelato. The ingredients didn't meld too well, especially the compote which was too sweet and overrode everything else. The bread pudding was much more "bready" than "pudding-y", and in general we both prefer the latter.

Perhaps the best deal at CU is the wine, which is sold at retail + $7 corkage. Some interesting bottles in the "funky stuff" section. We had a Feudi San Gregorio Rubrato Aglianico (not too obscure, but not common in restaurants), which was delicious, fruit-forward, and rich. Good service too. Our waiter was helpful, personable, and prompt, a little "friendlier" than I usually like but that actually works in this kind of lively restaurant. He actually asked before replenishing our wine from the bottle, which is great as that automatic refill is a pet peeve of mine.

Personally I think this may be the best restaurant in San Diego when you factor in price. After moving here from the East Coast several years ago I was disappointed by the lack of quality Italian, and I have finally found it. Not 100% traditional, but the updating to local ingredients and tastes is very welcome (and very Italian).

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