Friday, April 10, 2009

Cucina Alessa

Cucina Alessa
Pacific Coast Hwy, Newport Beach

A new-found fancy. Who'd have thought? I'd read of the establishment in the OC Register and thought... "okay, affordable, and a rave about it... I have to see what this place is about. Oooh, and they have smashingly addictive bread. I have to have some!" It was a mission, and now I've taken the initiative. Finally.

The place is always packed, crowded around the door to get a small deuce in the homey, contemporary Italian nook. Well, when Chef Alessandro is best friends with everyone it's hard to not at least like the place, or smile when you walk in the door and feel a warm hand on your back with an inviting air of smiles and "Buona sera, Bella. Che cosa voglie?" Hmmm...

Cucina Alessa invites its guests with bright spring flowers and a little votive candle. Don't forget the soul-capturing, warm food. The atmosphere was warm and cozy this eve. When seated, you follow the narrow, long entry dining room, where we sat this evening at a deuce table, half booth. The room is full of conversations, with that one banquette against one wall, and a single orchid painting of blue and yellow against an apricot warm wall, crowned with molding. Night descends, and the sleek, golden cone fixtures above dim themselves for mood and the candles triumph.

There is a back small dining room that leads to the outer seating area (also narrow). In entirety, there are probabaly about two-dozen deuces inside, and 10 outside. Small place, cozy and atmospheric. Homey, contemporary Italian. I like the fresh, warm quality of the place, and it certainly is popular! It was overflowing, and I waited only 20 mins for a table from one of the high-top bar deuces. Nice dark wooden tables and chairs with a leather upholstered seat cushion. Simply, yet appropriately comfy. The bar area is tiny... almost non-existent, but people cram in there even at 6pm while the parking lot overflows, and one has to park in the residential all around. Be prepared to walk.

Chef Alessandro greeted us and spoke in Italian, always offering to sell, in case he needed to, but he doesn't. A smile was enough from him to show that he was sincerely warm and inviting. He genuinely wants each customer to feel like family. He was constantly walking up and down the tables mingling like an old friend. Refreshing.

Masi, Campofiorin, Veneto Chianti
This was marvelous, especially for the price. It had dynamic quality to it, a fuller body than most chiantis, and some spicy-sweet hint. It was lovely, goes with anything... even fish!

Scarbolo, Pinot Grigio, Friuli
[$8.50] Alessandro's Favorite Wine
This was fantastic, with notes of hazelnut. This is a wine I would buy for the home. So lovely. Hazelnut is a fine surprise in dining delights, and in a wine of all things. $8.50. Better than a deal!

Focaccia bread and Pesto olive oil
Honestly, I could do without this bread. I'd heard it was something to wait for, but we never received it until we received our entrees. I was disappointed in the bread because it was brushed with butter or olive oil and it had a fried-quality crust, heavy in oil/butter. Overwhelming and heavy for me.

The pesto, on the other hand, was fantastic. It was simple but bold in fine-chopped basil flavor with the olive oil, basil and garlic-infused. There is a bit of cheese in this as well as far as the flavor goes, probably Parmesan.

Pescatore, minus the Linguini
of Calamari, Shrimp, Vongole, and Mussels in a white wine garlic sauce (thin) with red pepper flakes, side of Steamed Broccoli (dish)

Fresh and simply-steamed, bit sauteed in the white wine garlic sauce, with real minced garlic. The flavors are so fresh and bold. I enjoyed the bits of cilantro as well. This was fresh and honest. It is just enough to fill me up. The broccoli on top of that was a lot to handle. Next time, I'll just order the bowl of fishies! There were real, whole calamari in the dish... you know, the little squid! This was a fun dish, loaded with protein and variety of texture.

Ravioli Leggeri
"Spinach and Ricotta, with a creamy marinara sauce and basil"
Looked delicious. Lots of full and thick marinara sauce all over. Must have had some spinach in it, and a "special" cheese according to my date: the ricotta. This is enough for a meal, you don't need an appetizer at all. You'll be full.

No room for dessert this evening... but next time, I'll try that tiramisu.

You can't beat the prices for Italian food here. You can get an huge entree and a wine for $20.

Well, I just can't wait to return. Next time, it'll be for lunch so that I can consume something heavier: pasta perhaps? And dessert!

Cucina Alessa on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

The Bite Me Kitchen said...

I just came across your blog! Looks as though you frequent some of the same spots as us. Love Alessandro & his food :) Excellent collection of reviews as well.