Thankfully for diners, weeks-in-advance reservations are no longer required for this still wildly popular Italian eatery that executes rustic, California-influenced cuisine. Pasta and meat dishes—such as a signature short rib pappardelle and veal piccata— anchor the menu, which also offers inventive wood-fired pizzas, including a pancetta and leaves of Brussels sprouts with a Calabrian chili pepper kick. Other standouts include the daily polenta boards and fried squash blossoms stuffed with creamy ricotta and pesto. With both family-style and traditional dining, the restaurant strives for accessibility—most plates are under $20—and also features a small wine shop for diners to grab a well-priced bottle for dinner (with an $8 dollar corkage fee). Handcrafted cocktails, sangria, and San Diego (Alesmith, Stone) and Italian beers (Moretti) are also available. The space exudes an artsy, farmhouse vibe, with reclaimed wooden boards, funky light fixtures, and vintage Italian movie posters. A sister restaurant, Cocina Enoteca, with a spacious, whimsical dining room, recently opened in Del Mar.
San Diego› Restaurant
At Fifth Avenue, 505 Laurel St.
Our Rating Neighborhood Balboa Park Hours Sun 4:30–9pm; Mon 5–9pm; Tues–Thurs 5–10pm; Fri, Sat 5–10:30pm (limited menu till midnight); lunch Tues–Fri 11:30am–2pm Transportation Bus: 3 or 120 Phone 619/239-2222 Prices Main courses $14–$20 Cuisine Type Italian Web site Cucina Urbana