When Cucina Enoteca opened in Irvine Spectrum Center in 2012, it was transformative, delivering a different flavor and experience – from its cuisine to its decor to its in-house wine shop. (Cucina means “kitchen,” and enoteca means “wine shop.”) Owner Tracy Borkum describes her vision.

Tracy Borkum

Why did you choose Spectrum Center?

I never in my wildest dreams thought I’d open outside of an urban setting, but when the opportunity was brought to me in 2012, I realized that Irvine Company was on the cutting edge of transforming shopping and retail into a destination experience. Back then, bringing in a street-facing restaurant such as Cucina delivered a different flavor and experience to the Spectrum. They took a risk on me, and I will be forever grateful.

Your restaurant includes a wine shop?

Yes. This allows guests to hand-select wines at a retail price, either to enjoy with their meal for a minimal corkage fee, or for purchase to go. The wine list is composed of many familiar labels as well as rare and small-batch gems, with an emphasis on Italian and California varietals.

Why did you choose to do this?

We have certified sommeliers that are a wonderful resource to our guests. Enjoy a bottle with a meal at Cucina and pay far less for a bottle of wine with us versus any other restaurant. Our program offers artisan wines from small-batch wineries to allocated finds that are extremely difficult to come by. Elevate your wine knowledge by trying something new and different to take home and add to your own cellar.

How would you describe your cuisine?

We offer contemporary California Italian cuisine, combining flavors of Italy with the organic freshness of Southern California. Our menu is a mix of shareable plates of house-made pastas, innovative pizzas, cleverly crafted seafood and meat preparations, an elevated selection of antipasti, and sweets.

What’s popular?

Our fried squash blossoms with lemon aioli and salsa verde; and our short rib pappardelle with housemade pasta, cremini mushroom, carrot and Parmesan. Both items have been on our menu from day one and are huge customer favorites.

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