Cucina Enoteca in Irvine―O.C. Restaurant Week, and Beyond

Have you taken advantage of Orange County Restaurant Week yet? If not, you’ve got today and tomorrow to do so. (Take a look at the participating restaurants here.) At Cucina Enoteca, I was impressed by the generous choice on the special restaurant-week $25 and $30 menus—an especially good thing due to my enforcement of the informal-yet-ironclad agreement that my family orders a variety of dishes for everybody to taste.

Even with my vigilance, I was lucky to get a microbite of my son’s roasted Jidori chicken and creamy polenta. (I loved the addition of what the menu calls a poached hen egg, really a cooked-in-shell oeuf mollet.)  Honey-roasted eggplant pizza with goat cheese, mere millimeters thin and extra-crisp as requested, was exactly what my husband wanted after his Bulleit rye Manhattan ($10.50), which bartender Chris Yee makes with Carpano Antica vermouth. My apéritif was the sparkling rosé wine director Ed Manetta was pouring, an absolutely delicious, absolutely dry, 100 percent pinot noir Bailly-LaPierrecrémant ($12.50), a perfect setup for the butternut squash ravioli with caponata I picked for my main. We blitzed our starters: farmer’s chopped salad, the very popular stuffed squash blossoms, and ricotta gnudi. All were fab. Dessert’s included—we shared zeppole and chocolate budino, the former with blueberry filling and a puddle of lemon curd, the latter chockablock with cocoa nibs.

Maybe restaurant week had something to do with the place being so bustling on an otherwise unremarkable Tuesday, but I think Manetta’s $20 Tuesday wine flights might also have had something to do with the buzz, judging by the happy people at the long tables in the bar and wine-shop area. I look forward to being one of them myself, on a Tuesday evening very soon.

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