A test run at lunch was the final exam for waitstaff at CUCINA enoteca before they opened for business Tuesday evening. The morning was spent in classic Extreme Home Makeover fashion, as crews raced to stage dual patios. We roamed the front of their 8,800 square foot house, snapping photos of their controlled chaos.
With chef Lulu DeRouen at the helm (an On The Line feature is already in the works), we get a hold of their scrolled menu and peek at the food and beverage offerings.
In a secondary kitchen open to the dining room, we spot the oven that will fire up eight different pizza pies, including their cacciatorino sausage and rapini--with a besciamella sauce, chile and crispy onion. A twist for vegetarians, pear and gorgonzola style is joined by caramelized onions, arugula, aged balsamic and candied pecans. Their rotisserie is not fully operational yet, but the labor of love we know as mascarpone polenta, plus their weekly specials are good to go. Our bets are on Wild Wednesdays--when their house cheeseburger and draft Moretti lager pairing are just $14 (a $7.50 savings).
As a smartly conceived built-in room divider, the lengthy bar is home to lively concoctions as the Socialite (limoncello + vodka + housemade vanilla bean syrup) and "that's what she said" (dewar's scotch + carpano antica formula + cynar). For something a bit more spirited, go for a seasonal infusion of apple bourbon or chai tea rum on the rocks. Those designated may imbibe on cherry soda, flavored with aged balsamic and sweet cream. Of course, there's always the wine shop in the background, charging $10 corkage for the vino of your choosing.
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Scrawled anecdotes are peppered throughout their listings, including "The great thing in this world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving." Ideally, it'll be the direction your hostess is walking, towards your four top.
CUCINA enoteca is now open at 31 Fortune Dr., Irvine, (949) 861-2222; www.cucinaenoteca.com.