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“Upscale Italian with Excellent Service in Banker's Hill” 4 of 5 stars
Review of Cucina Urbana

Cucina Urbana
505 Laurel St, San Diego, CA 92101-1634
+1 619-239-2222
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Ranked #36 of 4,100 Restaurants in San Diego
Price range: $10 - $30
Cuisines: Italian, Pizza & Pasta, Organic, Wine Bar
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Restaurant details
Good for: Bar scene, Large groups, Local cuisine, Special occasions, Entertaining clients
Dining options: Lunch, Dinner, Reservations, Late Night
Dining style: Casual Dining
Cross street: 5th Avenue
Description: CUCINA urbana is a California inspired Italian Kitchen and Wine Shop. Owner Tracy Borkum's flair for combining great ambience, award-winning cuisine and unparalleled service are once again starring components in this Urban Kitchen Group creation. The restaurant is being heralded as the leader in the new regime of affordable dining in San Diego and has been the subject of praise from numerous local and national publications. The restaurant's interior evokes a modern kitchen combined with the history and comfort of an old rustic country farmhouse. A touch of home, splash of bohemia and many objects new and old attract the eye. A focus on raw, sustainable material and reclaimed local material is found throughout. Discarded fence boards recovered from San Diego county wrap columns, walls, service stations and the back bar. Chef Joe Magnanelli's menu offers affordable selections of vasi + antipasti + boards + insalate + pizza + pasta + piatti + dolce. His whimsical expression of Italian classics coupled with the use of the freshest local produce, and organic and sustainable products comprise a diverse menu with all items at or below $20. Whether dining traditionally or 'family style', guests have become hooked on favorites such as stuffed fried squash blossoms, ricotta gnudi, braised black cod and veal piccata. Wines of 'The Americas,' including California, Washington, Oregon, Argentina, Chile and Italy are among the major wine-producing regions offered in CUCINA urbana's retail priced Wine Shop. Guests are invited to visit the restaurant's retail area to select a bottle for lunch or dinner (a corkage fee of $8 applies) or purchase wine to go. Additionally, CU plays host to a monthly 'Winemakers Series,' where guests are invited to enjoy hors d'oeuvres, taste a variety of wines and mingle with a winemaker in a casual, informal setting. - Strong commitment to seasonality + sustainability - organic + local product used whenever possible - wines from the Americas and Italy - sold at retail pricing - special discounts for cases of wine to go! - Local artisan beers + italian favorites - housemade infused liquors + specialty cocktails
San Diego, California
Top Contributor
139 reviews 139 reviews
95 restaurant reviews
Reviews in 45 cities Reviews in 45 cities
58 helpful votes 58 helpful votes
“Upscale Italian with Excellent Service in Banker's Hill”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed July 17, 2013

Having dined at Cucina Urbana several times, I continue to return. Valet parking is out front but you can usually find free parking near the park on Sixth Ave. The room is spacious and vivacious and not for the quiet romantic dinner. Seating is also offered at the bar and pizza area and a wine shop is in the restaurant too. Our server, Sean, was excellent and friendly in every way! We had the wonderful jarred chicken liver pate and roasted squash blossoms to start. The squash at the end of the blossoms were a little on the large side and a bit raw and tough. Also, the special soup of the day was thin and pasty. The roast halibut was perfectly cooked with fresh peas and rice. We had two bottles of very affordable white wine but the Chablis was past its prime and a bit smoky and old tasting. The only note on the wines is the restaurant charges $8 corkage for all wines served at the table so be forewarned. Also, all cocktails are perfectly poured. Make sure to have a reservation at this bustling place!!!!

  • Visited July 2013
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Atmosphere
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
    • 4 of 5 stars Food
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417 reviews from our community

Visitor rating
    267
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Rating summary
    Food
    Service
    Value
    Atmosphere
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • French first
  • German first
  • Italian first
  • Japanese first
  • Portuguese first
  • Spanish first
  • Any
English first
La Paz, Mexico
Senior Reviewer
7 reviews 7 reviews
4 restaurant reviews
Reviews in 4 cities Reviews in 4 cities
“Good noisy food”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed July 16, 2013

We shared salads and entrees. They were kind enough to bring extra plates so we could scrape food from one plate to another. The cocktails were very good as was the wine. For dessert, I highly recommend the butterscotch pudding. Wonderful. The only drawback is the noise level. We could barely talk across the table to the others in our party. The service was excellent.

  • Visited July 2013
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 2 of 5 stars Atmosphere
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
    • 5 of 5 stars Food
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Philadelphia
Senior Reviewer
9 reviews 9 reviews
5 restaurant reviews
Reviews in 5 cities Reviews in 5 cities
6 helpful votes 6 helpful votes
“A knock out meal and a hip place”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed July 9, 2013

Quite possibly the best meals I've had. Started with lamb neck (which I was not expecting to like and found myself devouring) and moved on to a shrimp over angel hair pasta. Lots of Italian restaurants have this kind of fare, but none taste so explosively good. My wife ordered Lasagna (how boring could you get?) and then couldn't finish it because it was so delicious and so *dense* with different meats and sauce. I got to finish it; astounding! Should also mention their mixed drinks menu, including a character called a 'Rosebud' which is made with watermelon infused white sambuca, Intense.

  • Visited July 2013
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Atmosphere
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
    • 5 of 5 stars Food
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
NE US
Top Contributor
413 reviews 413 reviews
288 restaurant reviews
Reviews in 62 cities Reviews in 62 cities
154 helpful votes 154 helpful votes
“A happening spot with well-priced food and wine selections”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed July 3, 2013

My wife and I enjoyed a dinner here recently. We had heard great things about this place and it lived up to expectations. It was great to buy a bottle of wine from a good selection at the store and pay only an $8 corkage fee. We had a bottle that we paid about $70 for in a liquor store for $80! They also had plenty of less and more expensive options. I had a nice meat pizza and my wife had lasagne. We enjoyed them both. The tomato sauce was a bit sweeter than we like, but it often is in restaurants. The place is loud and packed so be sure to make a reservation. It’s a bit far from downtown so getting a cab back to our hotel was difficult but well worth the effort. We will eat here again next time we visit San Diego.

Visited June 2013
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Washington DC, District of Columbia
Senior Contributor
37 reviews 37 reviews
20 restaurant reviews
Reviews in 15 cities Reviews in 15 cities
22 helpful votes 22 helpful votes
“The best meal I've ever had!”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed July 1, 2013

What a restaurant; from the food to the decor everything flows perfectly. The atmosphere compliments the food perfectly in a urban, yet traditional setting with reclaimed wood paneling, candles, pub style tables, and a brick oven with a glow that gives off the feel and appearance of a fireplace for even more of a spectacular setting. The food is in a class of itself. I'm a serious foodie and I could eat the polenta with ragu everyday for the rest of my life and be incredibly happy. For dinner the short rib pappardelle can only be described as beef bourguignon with pasta and it's as hearty as it gets. The meat is beyond succulent in a fall of the bone kind of way. The agnolotti is creamy and delectable. Portions are not Cheesecake Factory style but when the food is this good and this rich, all you need is a small portion to make you feel incredibly satisfied. For dessert, get the tiramisu or chocolate tart. Expensive, but well worth the money!

  • Visited July 2013
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Atmosphere
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
    • 5 of 5 stars Food
Was this review helpful? Yes 2
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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