This is one of those posts that I have sat on for a while, not sure if I wanted to write. But here I am, six months later with the memory of this meal still clear as day. Cucina Urbana has always been one of those reliable restaurants with good food and maybe an even better vibe. Entertaining out of towners for the weekend? Execute easy decision making process, code name Cucina Urbana. Everyone needs go-to restaurants so as to not feel the constant pressure of finding new gems all the time. At least I do.
With tall buildings abound, it’s an interesting location nestled between businesses left and right. The closest landmark to me is Extraordinary Desserts while others may think Balboa Park. The first time I came here was for Jorgina Bowl many many years ago. What’s that you say? It’s basically a fun filled weekend celebrating two things, Jorgina’s birthday and the Superbowl. They always happen to fall on the same weekend, so why not? Curiously the celebration has been dormant ever since lil K and lil L popped into the picture. I wonder when Jorgina Bowl will get resurrected? Hint hint! There was a dish Michael and Jorgina raved about that I had to try, the Short Rib Pappardelle. I do remember it being quite delicious. Hand made pasta with a great chew and savory pull apart short rib to ease your troubles.
I made reservations a few weeks in advance to have a nice meal for Valentine’s Day with Anh. We didn’t go on the exact day to make sure we got a spot. Which also meant on this evening it hadn’t gotten particularly busy yet. There were plenty of open tables throughout the restaurant. The reason why I was hesitant to recount this experience is because up until this moment I only had great experiences here. But I figure if I share all the good times, I might as well do the same for the not so good moments.
Like I said before, we made reservations and arrived at the restaurant a few minutes early. No one was in front of us so we entered and approached the hostess station to check in. They told us to wait on the side and they would have our table ready in a short while. A few minutes later another couple arrived and checked in. The same hostess asked if they had a reservation and they replied “yes.” Then she asked them if they had a preference where they were seated. They told her they wanted a seat along the back wall. Shortly after they called us up and took us to our table in the middle of the room. I’m not sure why we didn’t get asked what our preference was. Maybe it was just something that was missed. I’m not one to really cause a ruckus over something like that. Unless you have totally wronged me or my family, I typically stay polite and civil. But deep down inside it started to irk me as we saw other people seated after us.
Well, it was Valentine’s Day we were out to celebrate so we tried not to let it affect our mood too much. The ricotta gnudi was a great way to right the ship. We loved the richness of the dish. The crispy sage leaves were a nice touch and we could have used more. Along with the distinct and elegant brown butter, a sweetness came to the surface and made it seem more airy.
The strong tomato base for the spaghettini helped wash away the coat of brown butter in our throats. As good as it was, the thought of still butter puts me off. The shrimp were plentiful with the calabrian chili giving just enough spice to tickle your tongue. I found myself eating the three leftover capers Anh didn’t want to finish. Overall it was a nice dish but the damage was done. As if bitten by a komodo dragon, the toxic distaste from the check in experience was starting to weigh on me. Under different conditions I might have enjoyed it more. It’s okay D, shake it off. We’re not done yet.
This is what I came for. I expected much. Did it deliver? Not so much. Have my taste buds changed? Were they off that night? Or did my mood affect the enjoyment of one of my favorite pasta dishes in San Diego? Maybe all or some of the above. I can’t really say. I just know I felt like a brick sinking to the bottom of Mission Bay a few bites in. Was it always this heavy? To compound it, our server seemed detached and was in her own world. Often I’d see her chatting it up far too long with her coworkers instead of checking on tables. I think my water cup was empty for almost 25 minutes during the meat of the meal. The thought of finishing the plate pains me just looking at it now. Granted, I only brought my iPhone along and it isn’t the most appetizing picture, but still. This was a winning dish in the past and at least on this occasion, seemed a little too heavy handed. The beef was too beefy, the seasoning was more than I could handle, and I needed more water to wash it all down.
Will I be back? Probably. But not for a while. Was I wronged? I don’t know. I hate to sound bitter and I would like to think it wasn’t on purpose. But you never know. This isn’t the first time I feel like I was treated differently at a restaurant. Am I alone here or has anyone else had a similar experience? I think of myself as a pretty observant person and maybe that backfires on me. The good thing about San Diego is there are so many options that one below average experience can be easily followed up by an above average one. Here’s to the next food adventure with a better outcome!
505 Laurel St
San Diego, CA 92101