Flower Hill in Del Mar welcomes new Cucina Enoteca
By Kelley Carlson
People are welcome to have a seat at Cucina Enoteca – literally and figuratively. At this modern Italian kitchen-meets-rustic farmhouse concept eatery – which recently took over the former Chevy’s location in Flower Hill Promenade – guests will discover a “restaurant to retail” environment.
Everything is for sale, from Italian entrees on the menu and bottles of wine stocked near the entrance, to the customized furniture and lighting.
Owner Tracy Borkum completely redesigned the space (using repurposed and reclaimed materials) and filled it with her eclectic array of creations and locally procured vintage wares, such as orange-wire bend chairs and relish jar candles. Large windows permit plenty of natural light by day, and at night, the establishment is glowing from candlelit tables and custom-made chandeliers suspended from the high ceilings.
Guests can often be found chattering over the soft background music while seated around the two large communal tables in the main dining room, or making new acquaintances at the bar. Kids have fun at the seating area that wraps around the pizza oven, watching chefs toss dough high into the air, then spreading tomato sauce and piling cheese onto their own pies. A side dining room offers a more quiet and intimate experience.
A “garden in the sky” awaits above. Patrons travel up the stairs past a “curtain” of model-sized horses to the second-story deck, which is abundant with foliage and offers views of the area. There, they can lounge on colorful couches, rock gently in a swing for two, or savor specialty cocktails, wines, and Italian artisan brews at the bar.
“You feel like you’re in your own world up there,” Chef de Cuisine Andrew Bachelier said. With all the different dining options, “you can come in each time and have a different experience,” he noted.
Bachelier is part of the culinary team led by Executive Chef Joe Magnanelli, and together they created a menu that incorporates some staples from Cucina Enoteca in Irvine and sister Cucina Urbana locations, but also concocted items specific to the Del Mar site. Many of the ingredients used are from Borkum’s garden at her home in San Diego.
Many guests start their meal with antipasti such as Burrata + Prosciutto “Caprese,” featuring creamy cheese and wedges of heirloom tomato accented with wild arugula and Gaeta olives, drizzled with 18-year aged balsamic, all resting on razor-thin slices of prosciutto. Other crowd-pleasing starters include the Panko-Crusted Rabbit Sausage with a celery confit, in which the prunes are cooked down in cognac; and the Grilled Octopus, surrounded by tiny pickled beech mushrooms and charred scallions, acqua pazza (crazy water) aioli, black garlic and coriander vinaigrette.
For the main course, there are selections ranging from pizzas and pastas to salads and meat-based dishes. The favorite among the Cucina chefs is the Bucatini, a pile of thick noodles mixed with bits of house-cured guanciale (jowl of a pig), burnt cabbage leaf, tomato, chili and pecorino, topped with a hen egg to be broken and mixed into the noodles. Another desired dish is the Celery Root Agnolotti with black trumpet mushrooms, Tahitian squash, slices of duck prosciutto and espresso sugo (rich Italian sauce).
Among the desserts are Pear + Armagnac Tiramisu with vanilla bean mousse and bittersweet chocolate, and Zeppole (Italian-style doughnut holes) with spiced apple conserva and chili chocolate.
Along with such temptations, diners may want to take advantage of the themed daily specials, offered from 3 to 6 p.m. There’s Meatball Monday, Take-Out Tuesday, Wild Wednesday (burger and Moretti beer); Thrifty Thursday (half-price pizza), Formaggi Friday, Social Saturday (when people are asked to find the weekly password on Twitter or Facebook) and Sinful Sunday (no corkage on all bottles from the wine shop over $20). Also, $1 from each purchase of a Cucina signature wine goes toward a different local charity each month.
If You Go — Cucina Enoteca
Address: 2730 Via de la Valle, Del Mar
Phone: (858) 704-4500
The Vibe: Upscale casual, rustic, lively
Signature Dishes: Stuffed Fried Squash Blossoms, Short Rib Pappardelle, Spicy Shrimp Angel Hair Puttanesca, Gnocchi Neri, Panko Crusted Rabbit Sausage; Berkshire Pork Osso Bucco
Open Since: 2013
Patio Seating: Yes
Happy Hour: 3-6 p.m. daily
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday, 5-9 p.m. Monday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday-Saturday
On The Menu Recipe
Each week you’ll find a recipe from the featured restaurant online at lajollalight.com. Just click Get The Recipe at the bottom of the story. This week: Bucatini Guanciale
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