O.C. Is Due for a Second Cucina Enoteca

After its first at Irvine Spectrum, San Diego-based Urban Kitchen Group plants a flag at Fashion Island

You’ve probably heard Orange County is getting another Cucina Enoteca. Our first local restaurant from San Diego-based Urban Kitchen Group opened in the Irvine Spectrum in 2011, where its Cal-Ital menu and for-sale boutique furnishings were an instant hit. The second, at Fashion Island, is due to open in August.

Brent Omeste will be chef de cuisine, in something of a homecoming for him. Though he got his start at Alessá, Omeste was opening sous chef of Cucina Enoteca’s Irvine restaurant, working with Urban Kitchen Group executive chef Joe Magnanelli. Omeste then worked for Charlie Palmer in Costa Mesa and Irvine-based Galardi Group before returning recently.

“I’m really looking forward to opening another restaurant with the Urban Kitchen Group,” Omeste says. “The company is growing and I’m thrilled to be part of that. The Newport location will certainly bear resemblance to the sister restaurants, but we’ll have unique dishes that will rotate as the seasons change.” He mentions frequently-changing risotto and crudo selections that will join the rotating soups and ragus familiar from the Irvine menu.

Wine director Ed Manetta will add Newport Beach to his Irvine duties. Manetta will soon complete the highest level of the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) Diploma, after which he’ll enter the Master of Wine program, eventually earning the title held by only 280 people worldwide. Manetta’s wine program at the Irvine Cucina Enoteca was included in the Top 5 in O.C. put together by our own Wine Dudes in the July Orange Coast.

More so than at other restaurants, décor sets the tone at Cucina Enoteca, partly due to the “everything’s-for-sale” concept, but also from attention to detail that layers materials, styles, and textures wherever you look. I’ve admired how California-classic Heath Ceramics tile is used in the Irvine restaurant, and there’ll be more of that in Newport Beach. But of course the ultimate detail is the food, and Cucina Enoteca has always had that pretty well covered.


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