CUCINA urbana defines the word "cool". I feel so cool walking inside Tracy Borkum's fine establishment that was once called Laurel. Why? I would say the atmosphere, positive energy, eclectic decor, and how the Chef Magnanelli puts a creative twist on Italian cuisine, making it, well, cool.
I dined here twice in a matter of weeks because my first experience here was excellent. The food is so darn good. I just had to return to share the experience with friends who have not yet visited. Read on....
[first experience]Arlene and I always try to meet up frequently to catch up on current happenings & new restaurants that we both have tried or would like to try, and to discuss our common interest of running races. We met at CUCINA urbana one early evening with a 5:30 PM reservation on MEATBALL MONDAY (1/2 off the giant meatball and the meatball pizza, 5-6pm).
Because it was Meatball Monday, I just had to order one of their giant meatballs as an appetizer. A simple entree of pasta and meatballs is one of my favorite comfort food dishes. Therefore, I love a good meatball (why do I want to say, "That's what she said" every time I talk about meatballs. Oh, The Office.).
Yum, it sure was a giant meatball. The size of the meatball is right between a baseball and a softball. It was topped with melted mozzarella cheese and chives. It was also surrounded by a small sea of tomato sauce which was tangy and delicious. The meatball was soft, juicy and full of flavor. Absolutely divine. Give me a bowl of linguine or angel hair marinara with this bad boy and I'm set.
The stuffed fried squash blossoms were offered to Arlene and I - as there was a mistake in the kitchen. We both never had squash blossoms before, so we accepted the offer. The squash blossoms are stuffed with an herb fluffy ricotta cheese, dipped in batter, and deep fried. They are finished with a complimentary lemon dressing and purple basil pesto. The batter was light and crispy and did not overpower the flavor of the ricotta and blossoms. The stems of the blossom resembled asparagus. We thought they wouldn't charge us since it was a mistake, but they did. It was all good because they were really delicious and well worth it.
There's something about the word "pork belly" that I makes me want to order anything that contains those two words. After watching Top Chef and the countless dishes they make with pork belly, my mouth has always been curious about what chef can do with the ingredient. I ordered the pork belly + farm egg pizza to satisfy my curiosity. The pizza also has potato slices, chopped scallions, asiago cheese, and creamy bechamel. It was like eating a breakfast pizza. The flavors were awesome. Each flavor complimented each other; maybe because it had breakfast items. I mean, pork belly is essentially where bacon comes from! I enjoyed the runny yolk and the mild onion flavor that the scallions lent to the overall flavor of the pizza.
Arlene ordered the pear + gorgonzola pizza as her entree. I have to admit that my first taste experience with gorgonzola did not go so well, so I was a little hesitant. After taking a bite, OMG, let me tell you... the caramelized pear slices, gorgonzola cheese, balsamic vinegar, caramelized onions, and candied walnuts and crispy, fresh arugula for added crunch... they all were a wonderful flavor combination. It was so good!
We agreed that we could have shared one pizza, but now we know. We only ended up eating one half of our own pizza so we ended up boxing the rest home.
For dessert, we shared the bittersweet chocolate budino, which came with a chocolate chantilly cream (comparable to a chocolate mousse) and a crunchy salted chocolate cookie. Yum!
[super cool painted wall]To celebrate the end of the semester and to say "Bon Voyage" to Steph and Dan, we went to CUCINA urbana for culinary adventure that they, except for one friend, were experiencing for the first time. I was proud to introduce them to this gem in Bankers Hill.
Benny arrived at the restaurant first and ordered the first appetizer... the gorgonzola walnut mousse with sun dried tomato. The mousse was nice and creamy. Like the pizza, the gorgonzola was not overpowering and had a subtle flavor. When paired with the sun dried tomato on the Tuscan toast, it certainly was a great choice of an appetizer.
The fritto misto appetizer came with fried everything... calamari, shrimp, soft shell crab, veggies and a caper mayo. Who doesn't like fried food? All items were hot -- straight from the fryer. It was a simple treat that did not disappoint.
I suggested CUCINA urbana to my friends mainly because I wanted to try this... the risotto carbonara. Oh, yes. The savory ingredients of "carbonara" include eggs (egg yolks), pecorino romano (or parmesan) cheese, pepper, and a fatty pork like pancetta or bacon. Dee-lish! So, creamy risotto + carbonara = HEAVEN! It was fabulous. We all had a taste and it was by far, my favorite flavor of the evening.
We split the grilled romaine caesar salad with shaved parm, white anchovy, oven roasted tomato, and house made ricotta cheese. Although I know that caesar dressing is made out of anchovies, I couldn't look at it, nor wanted it to touch my lettuce. I know, I told you I am weird.
We ordered three pizzas to share since it was THRIFTY THURSDAY (1/2 off all pizzas 5-6pm)... the pork belly + farm egg, pear + gorgonzola, and the pepperoni. Of course, the pepperoni slice was awesome.
Our final tastes of the evening was the roasted strawberry fregolata and the bittersweet chocolate budino. The strawberry dessert has crushed pistachios, mascarpone vanilla bean gelato, and Meyer lemon coulis. Can you say TART? Yes, it certainly was -- and it was delicious. I especially loved the vanilla bean gelato!
It is always a special treat to go to CUCINA urbana. They have excellent customer service, delicious food, and like I mentioned many times, a cool atmosphere. Do it. Be cool. And get the risotto carbonara.