CUCINA enoteca: An Irvine Favorite for Rustic Italian Food with a California Twist

If you’re in the mood for California inspired Italian food, CUCINA enoteca is a must-try restaurant in Irvine. CUCINA enoteca is part of the Urban Kitchen Group collection of restaurants located throughout Southern California.  Under the leadership of owner and principal, Tracy Borkum, Urban Kitchen Group boasts five locations in the Orange County and San Diego metros.

CUCINA enoteca in Irvine
CUCINA enoteca in Irvine

Tracy Borkum’s Vision for the Urban Kitchen Group Collection of Restaurants

After multiple successful restaurant ventures in San Diego, Tracy’s first entry into the Orange County restaurant scene was with CUCINA enoteca at the Irvine Spectrum.  For this location, Tracy wanted a restaurant name that would encompass an integral part of their concept: wine. The name CUCINA enoteca loosely translates to kitchen + wine repository. As you enter the restaurant, you’re greeted with CUCINA’s impressive retail wine shop that features over 200 specialty labels from European to Americas with an emphasis on Italian and Californian varietals.

Retail wine section at the CUCINA enoteca entrance
Retail wine section at the CUCINA enoteca entrance

[I knew] I would be solely responsible for not only my achievements but also my failures. – Owner, Tracy Borkum

Urban Kitchen Group’s mission statement is: “to successfully craft the perfect dining ‘trifecta’: exceptional food and superior service in an imaginatively designed environment.” As you dine at CUCINA enoteca, you can’t help but notice that in every corner, with each dish and in all aspects of the restaurant there is so much personality. From the bohemian-chic fixtures to the presentation of the dishes (you can get roasted garlic burrata in a mini mason jar), it’s all very CUCINA enoteca. 

Founder and prinicpal, Tracy Borkum (Photo courtesy of UKG)
Founder and prinicpal, Tracy Borkum (Photo courtesy of UKG)

In taking the leap to go into the restaurant business, Tracy drew inspiration from her parents who were also both entrepreneurs. “[I knew] I would be solely responsible for not only my achievements but also my failures.”1)http://www.sandiegometro.com/2011/03/women-owned-business-owners-are-driven-by-an-entrepreneurial-spirit/ Since its opening in December of 2011, CUCINA enoteca has become an Orange County favorite for “Cal-Ital” cuisine. So much so that in 2014, Urban Kitchen Group opened a second Orange County location at Fashion Island in Newport Beach.

Honey roasted eggplant and herb goat cheese pizza
Honey roasted eggplant and herb goat cheese pizza

The Urban Kitchen Group’s mission statement “to successfully craft the perfect dining ‘trifecta’: exceptional food and superior service in an imaginatively designed environment.”

How did you come up with the idea of combining a restaurant with a wine shop?

Tracy: The restaurant-to-retail component was crafted throughout initial discussions of what the ‘look and feel’ of the space would offer. From furniture to lighting to candles and soap, everything is available for purchase. An obvious extension of the restaurant-to-retail concept was further carried out through the retail wine shop. Every bottle on the menu is also available for purchase to take home and enjoy.

CUCINA enoteca main dining area
CUCINA enoteca main dining area (Photo courtesy of UKG)

Why is the first word all capitalized? 

Tracy: When developing CUCINA, it was always our goal to expand the concept to multiple markets. The capitalization of the word ‘CUCINA’ fits in our brand of growing CUCINA concepts (CUCINA enoteca Irvine, CUCINA enoteca Del Mar, CUCINA enoteca Newport Beach), each with its own special identity. CUCINA is the trademark stamp that ties it all together. The most recent concept, cucina SORELLA, follows a different styling due to the “little sister” translation. cucina SORELLA is a spin-off on the other CUCINA concepts, offering a smaller more intimate setting which is fitting for its name.

If it’s no calories, it’s no fun! – Chef de Cuisine, Tony Trujillo.

 The CUCINA family of restaurants has several locations, what makes the Irvine Spectrum location special?

Tracy: CUCINA enoteca Irvine holds a special place in the CUCINA family as it was the first expansion of the CUCINA brand in the Orange County market as well as the first location that we were able to build from the ground up. It was also our first venture into a retail setting, a model that we have carried through our other locations and fits perfectly with our restaurant-to-retail concept.

CUCINA enoteca patio dining area
CUCINA enoteca patio dining area (Photo courtesy of UKG)

CUCINA has a way with Italian food, whether it’s their Italian comfort-food lasagna or “blistering leopard spots intended” rustic pizza. CUCINA manages to deliver authentic Italian while adding a fresh Californian twist.

Lasagna al Forno
Lasagna al Forno (Photo courtesy of UKG)

What is the inspiration for the California inspired Italian cuisine that one can enjoy at CUCINA enoteca?

Tracy: Combining the freshness of local California produce with the tradition of delicious Italian cooking, continues to be the inspiration behind CUCINA enoteca and all CUCINA concepts. Fresh, local fare leads our inspiration and allows us to create inventive twists on classic staples – there’s always something new to discover. 

Chef de Cuisine Tony Trujillo

Tony Trujillo is CUCINA enoteca’s in Irvine’s Chef de Cuisine.  If you’re in the mood for some seafood, feast your eyes on this beautiful Faroe Island salmon that Chef Tony Trujillo was preparing during our visit! “If it’s no calories, it’s no fun!” joked Chef Trujillo.

Chef de Cuisine of CUCINA enoteca, Tony Trujillo
Chef de Cuisine of CUCINA enoteca, Tony Trujillo

Strolling through the Irvine Spectrum, you’ll find CUCINA enoteca front and center in the Edwards Courtyard across from the Edwards movie theaters. True to Socal (and Irvine) form, the restaurant has a laidback and approachable vibe without any sacrifice in quality for their full-of-Italian-goodness food.  Have we mentioned desserts?! Their airy nutella zeppole is the perfect way to end your meal on a balmy Southern California night. Cheers!

CUCINA enoteca at the Irvine Spectrum
CUCINA enoteca at the Irvine Spectrum

CUCINA enoteca
Irvine Spectrum
532 Spectrum Center Drive
Irvine, CA 92618
949.861.2222

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