This California-inspired Italian kitchen dazzles and delightsBottom Highlights, Eat This! Thursday, August 20th, 2015
Writing a food and beverage column has its benefits. For example, there’s no shortage of handsome candidates eager to engage as dinner companions. A recent acquaintance, “Lestat”, said he liked Italian cuisine, and I booked a table at Cucina Urbana one recent weeknight. We entered the below street level high-ceilinged dining room and admired the funky chic farmhouse décor – walls of wine bottles and reclaimed wood, eclectic Edison bulb chandeliers, burlap backed leather chairs. Seated at our table in the dimly lit room, I discerned the swells of a well-toned physique beneath Lestat’s tailored white cotton shirt; the lean taut build of a dancer, or a gymnast.
Our server Jonathan, sporting a stunning handle-bar mustache, brought water and wine. We selected the 2013 Tegernseerhof Grüner Veltliner ($30 plus $8 corkage fee), an “unconventional” Austrian white wine. The pale gold colored medium-bodied pour begins with a fruity nose of pear, apple, citrus and floral notes, then fills the palate with hints of lime and almond, and ends with a long soft steely finish.
For appetizers, we chose the Baby Beet Salad ($12) and various selections from the Formaggi and Salumi menu ($18). Lestat said the salad was “erotic” with “lots of life”. I admit the flavors and textures – earthy gold and maroon beets, bitter endive, sweet oro blanco (a variety of seedless grapefruit), with velvety buttermilk bufala medallions drizzled in basil tarragon pesto, combine for a gastronomic explosion in your mouth. The cheeses vary from a creamy elderflower tomme, to an herb coated tomme de fontenay, while the meats include slices of firm venison and pork country pâté, lightly smoked italian prosciutto di parma ruliano and spicy finocchiona. Coarse ground and fiery smooth mustards, fresh honey, blueberries, pickled red onions and olives, serve as the perfect accompaniments.
For entrées, Lestat chose the Pappardelle Pasta ($21) and I opted for the Banzino ($28). The large housemade noodles have a firm bite and are served with tender cremini mushrooms, diced carrots and succulent short ribs braised in a marsala and fig reduction, then topped with hand grated parmigiano cheese. A robust and savory selection. The whole roasted deboned European seabass, served with skin and head on, rests atop saffron couscous tossed with pine nuts, currants, capers, grilled lemon slices and a caramelized leek vinaigrette. An exquisite balance of salty, sweet and sour.
Jonathan tempted us with tantalizing desserts, such as peach and Almond Crostata, Chocolate Budino and Cherry Tiramisu, but we instead chose to linger a little longer over demitasses of very strong espresso ($3.50). We were among the last guests to leave when the friendly staff bid us arrivederci.
Cucina Urbana, one of Urban Kitchen Group’s many fine restaurants, has been wowing diners with contemporary Italian cuisine since 2009. Using locally sourced organic and sustainable ingredients, Executive Chef Joe Magnanelli and Executive Sous Chef Mike Ground create mouthwatering meals which consistently dazzle and delight. Cucina Urbana is open daily for lunch, happy hour and dinner. Hours vary and reservations are strongly recommended. Eat this, hungry readers. You’ll be glad you did.
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