If you were to ask me my top 10 favorite overall restaurants in San Diego, Cucina Urbana would be right at the top of this list. Their perfect balance of awesome food & drinks, plus decor and ambiance is hard to beat. However, this is no big secret to most San Diego anymore. Thus, it’s been quite awhile since we’ve been here due to their sheer popularity. However, since we had family in town last week, we decided to plan a bit further ahead and made reservations early. I’m glad we did.
Cucina Urbana is an Italian inspired restaurant that keeps things simple, but interesting. They are located right at the corner of 5th Ave. and Laurel St., very close to Balboa Park.
We decided to eat family style this evening since it was a family dinner after all. Our first app was a cheese board which was on special. 3 cheeses for $8. The first cheese on the left was a sheep’s milk cheese with an infusion of black truffles in it. It was followed next by a smoked gouda, and then a bold (but not over the top) blue cheese. Accompanying the cheeses were some honeycomb, cherry jam, spicy marmalade, sriracha, cornichons, and two mustards. Not pictured, was a couple baskets of warm bread. First app… A+!!!
Next up we had a salad with fresh tomatoes and arugula. There was a nice subtle vinaigrette to accompany it and fresh grated Parmesan cheese. App #2 was simple and fresh, but the real star was about to emerge.
App #3 was a grilled Octopus. It was to die for! I typically am not a huge fan of octopus because 9/10 times they overcook it to a point where it’s rubbery, or not seasoned enough. Thankfully tonight was the exception to that rule. The octopus was cooked perfectly. The natural flavor of the meat was briny and sweet, but not overpowering. It was complimented perfectly with some frisée, mushrooms, aged balsamic vinegar, and aioli. Another A+!!
So our main entree (the short rib pappardelle with cremini mushroom, carrot, & parmigiano) is why we wanted to come here in the first place. You cannot tell from the dimensions of this picture, but it was huge. This was the family portion (add on $23) which was large enough to feed 3-4 people easily. We’ve gotten this dish every time we’ve come here. It’s that good! The short ribs are super tender and flavorful. It tastes like it’s been braised a whole day and then simmered on low for another 24 hours! Perhaps I’m exaggerating a bit, but the rich flavors simply make me smile. Their fresh pappardelle coupled with this heavenly bolognese is an undeniable match made in heaven.
A close up of my first serving! One of my favorite things to eat here in San Diego. :-)
Prices for the everything were incredibly reasonable for what you get here. In fact, for those of you who like to drink, they have a full bar plus a retail wine shop attached. So, you can purchase your wine at retail cost and simple enjoy it with your meal! You can checkout their dinner menu here.
Cucina Urbana falls under the Urban Kitchen Group. I understand they have a couple other restaurants, one in Del Mar, and one up in Orange County. I haven’t tried them at all, but suspect if they are anywhere close to Cucina Urbana, it would be worth a trip.
Anyhow, if you haven’t had Cucina Urbana yet, add it quickly to your list! I’d also recommend you checkout their pizzas also. They are amazingggggg too! Okay, I’m making myself hungry again, so I’ll definitely need to get back here sooner than later. TGIF.
505 Laurel St
San Diego, CA 92101