Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Cucina Enoteca in Del Mar, CA

My wife has visited Cucina Enoteca with her friends and was hoping that it would be a place we could visit together.  They offer GF pasta but the big question is was it safe for a gluten free diner.  She spoke with one server that has celiac and she told my wife that she ate their herself and that the kitchen was very good and safe when it came to preparing GF dishes.

We had family in town and we went out with the kids for an early dinner on Sunday.  Once we arrived we found out that the waitress my wife had spoken too was off that night.  Instead we were seated with Angelo, who was excellent.  He knew the menu well and went back to check with the kitchen to make sure what I was ordering was going to be safe to eat.

Cucina Enoteca is a sister restaurant of Cucina Urbana, which is a big favorite with one woman I work with who is a huge foodie.  I saw on the website that there is also a Cucina Enoteca in Irvine.

The restaurant is an Italian restaurant with an urban flare and very eclectic, but it has a warm atmosphere.  Out front was a vertical garden growing edible flowers and herbs.  Inside the door you are greeted by all sorts of interesting wine selections (note that on sundays there is no corkage fee for any bottle over 20 bucks that is purchased in their wine section).

Kids?  Yes.  They have a kids menu and the staff was friendly with the kids.  They each had a Hank's Root Beer (GF) and one had the pizza, the other had the pasta.  Neither one of them has to eat GF.

My wife and mother had the squash blossoms (not GF), the burrata, and the beat salad.  My wife raves about their squash blossoms.  I have made them at home in a GF version by making a tempura batter with rice flour and seltzer water.  Both ladies said that the beet salad was the best beet salad they have ever had.

So what did I eat?  They have a GF bread option.  I am always impressed when a restaurant has GF bread, even if it is Udi's heated up.  At Cucina Enoteca they have a home made GF flatbread.  I was going to ask exactly what it was made of but I forgot before we left.  I questioned them, as I always do, before eating it but I was guaranteed that it was made separately and safe for those of us that need to avoid gluten.  And it was good - a nice crisp crunch with a perfect amount of salt.

For my appetizer I had the grilled octopus.  Our server checked first with the chef, and yes, the dish was okay and safe for me to eat.  There is an aioli that is made with soy sauce but they use a GF soy sauce.  The cut was huge!!  Usually, octopus is serve as a small piece - much easier to cook and serve tender.  This was a big piece and cooked perfectly with a nice char.  The pickled mushrooms were amazing - I only wish there were more on the plate.  The really nice thing was that the guy that ran the food to our table presented it as GF octopus.  As you know I think this is a big thing - the kitchen communicating with the runners - and Cucina Enoteca came up with a gold star.

For dinner I had the Jidori Chicken.  The chicken was perfectly cooked and not dry at all and the skin had a crispy texture.  The other stand out on the plate was the crocchette.  I learned that they make their own polenta in house and it is GF.  The polenta crocchette seemed like it was mixed with some mashed potato and scallions then deep fried.  Fried?  They had me covered.  I was told that they do have two fryers one for gluten items (ie. the squash blossoms) and another for the fries, but to be safe they put on a separate pot of oil and cooked my crocchettes separately.  Big kudos to the kitchen for looking out for me.  How were they?  They were delicious, so much so that I am going to try to duplicate them at home some time.

So if you couldn't tell, I enjoyed the meal and the experience.  My wife is happy that we have found another restaurant that we can go to together and enjoy a safe meal - otherwise she was going without me (she loves their food that much).  Put this on your list of places to go next time you are in Del Mar.


The Un-Gluten Guy

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