Seven years ago, Laurel Restaurant occupied the space that is now occupied by Cucina Urbana, a trendy rustic Italian place in downtown San Diego.
And by trendy, I mean, when it is packed the hostess sends you to the bar to wait. The unfortunate thing is that the bar is cool but always packed, and doesn’t have any service. There’s someone to clean up the bar seating area, but s/he can’t take your order. For that you have to physically walk up to the crowded bar, squeeze in between two people and order your drink or food. It’s ridiculous.
However, we’ve been back two or three times because the food is really, really good. Honestly, that’s the only reason we come back. The table service borders on annoying, like a gnat that hovers, to clear your plates or refill your water glass at the moment it gets below a millimeter full. Yet, where they could improve is with a description of the food when they set it down in front of you.
And while I spewing areas of improvement, it would be great if they had multiple types of wine glasses. After all, anyone who knows anything about wine doesn’t really want to drink their pinot noir in a cabernet glass?
But back to the food and the real reason why you should check out Cucina Urbana next time you are in San Diego.
The board: they often have “board” specials which are served on a mini pizza peel. We had the polenta with a pork ragu and let me tell you, 3 days later and I’m still thinking about it, it was that good! The dish was served tableside where the creamy polenta was spread out on the board and then a savory pork stew-like ragu was spooned into the center. If you like pork and you like polenta, you will LOVE this dish.
Although I’ve had their mason jars of delicacies in the past and I really wanted to have the decadent savory chicken liver mousse again, I felt like it might be too much food so we skipped it and went for salad and pasta.
The chopped house salad was slightly overdressed but had great flavor and a slight kick with the pepperocinis.
You can’t go wrong with any of the pastas. All homemade, all delicious and all moderate portion sizes.
You definitely need a reservation, or you can try your luck at the bar.
505 Laurel St. (5th Ave.)
San Diego, CA 92101