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A neighborhood eatery in which the neighborhood had a say

Cucina Sorella comes to Kensington

The texture and flavor of the pasta dishes were flawless.
The texture and flavor of the pasta dishes were flawless.
Place

Cucina Sorella

4055 Adams Avenue, San Diego

Cucina Sorella (which means “sister” in Italian) offers the same warm and welcoming atmosphere we’ve come to expect from the other cucinas of the Urban Kitchen Group (Cucina Urbana, Cucina Enoteca), all overseen by owner Tracy Borkum and Group Executive Chef Joe Magnanelli.

Cucina Sorella

But this latest addition is more intimate than the larger spaces of its siblings. The most notable difference is on the menu: the more expansive menus of Sorella’s sisters focus on pizza and entrées, but at Sorella the spotlight is on the fresh pasta, as well as antipasto and seasonally inspired share plates. Pizza isn’t even on the menu.

Saffron Bucatini

Sorella is in the same space as two previous Borkum restaurants: the longtime mainstay Kensington Grill and the shorter-lived Fish Public. Before opening Sorella, Borkum turned to the neighborhood, posting a survey to message boards asking residents what they hoped to see in the vacant space. The overwhelming response was a desire to see her stay in the ’hood, and there was a lot of encouragement for a Cucina-esque restaurant.

A flower-adorned cocktail

The man overseeing the pasta production is Chef Daniel Wolinsky, who trained with Massimo Bottura (known for his three-star Michelin Osteria Francescana in Italy, which was featured on Netflix’s Chef’s Table series). Even in its first few weeks (a shaky time for any new restaurant), on both my visits the dishes were on point. The cocktails are well-crafted and presented laced with flowers and flavored garnishes, as in the Il Zenzero, a refreshing gin-based concoction with a kick, garnished with fresh basil and jalapeño.

Polenta board with mushroom ragu

There are a few familiar Cucina items, such as the ever-changing polenta board. This one featured a rich mushroom ragu, and the polenta was creamy and savory.

Octopus Alla Plancha

One seafood primi was reminiscent of the previous kitchen — the Octopus Alla Plancha ($14) with piquillo pepper, smoked potato, and crispy pepperoni. The octopus was expertly prepared, tender without being chewy.

Cavatelli Mac and Cheese

David and I are difficult to please when it comes to pasta, so we were pleasantly surprised when, on a recent visit with friends, the texture and flavor of all four of our pasta dishes were flawless. They included the Squid Ink Fusilli with swordfish ($20), Cavatelli Mac and Cheese with black garlic ($16), Olive Pappardelle with lamb shoulder ragu ($20), and Saffron Bucatini with rock shrimp and clam ($19).

Chocolate Peanut Butter Bar

For dessert we shared the Chocolate Peanut Butter Bar ($9). David’s Hungarian family often jokes about how Hungarians hate peanut butter. But I had to fight David for the last bite of this one, as it was more like Nutter Butter meets Butterfingers — salty, sweet, and it made us happy.

Judging from our own experience, as well as that of others we’ve spoken to, Sorella is a welcome addition to the Kensington neighborhood. She may be the newest sister in the family, but I have a feeling she’ll be making her own mark.

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The texture and flavor of the pasta dishes were flawless.
The texture and flavor of the pasta dishes were flawless.
Place

Cucina Sorella

4055 Adams Avenue, San Diego

Cucina Sorella (which means “sister” in Italian) offers the same warm and welcoming atmosphere we’ve come to expect from the other cucinas of the Urban Kitchen Group (Cucina Urbana, Cucina Enoteca), all overseen by owner Tracy Borkum and Group Executive Chef Joe Magnanelli.

Cucina Sorella

But this latest addition is more intimate than the larger spaces of its siblings. The most notable difference is on the menu: the more expansive menus of Sorella’s sisters focus on pizza and entrées, but at Sorella the spotlight is on the fresh pasta, as well as antipasto and seasonally inspired share plates. Pizza isn’t even on the menu.

Saffron Bucatini

Sorella is in the same space as two previous Borkum restaurants: the longtime mainstay Kensington Grill and the shorter-lived Fish Public. Before opening Sorella, Borkum turned to the neighborhood, posting a survey to message boards asking residents what they hoped to see in the vacant space. The overwhelming response was a desire to see her stay in the ’hood, and there was a lot of encouragement for a Cucina-esque restaurant.

A flower-adorned cocktail

The man overseeing the pasta production is Chef Daniel Wolinsky, who trained with Massimo Bottura (known for his three-star Michelin Osteria Francescana in Italy, which was featured on Netflix’s Chef’s Table series). Even in its first few weeks (a shaky time for any new restaurant), on both my visits the dishes were on point. The cocktails are well-crafted and presented laced with flowers and flavored garnishes, as in the Il Zenzero, a refreshing gin-based concoction with a kick, garnished with fresh basil and jalapeño.

Polenta board with mushroom ragu

There are a few familiar Cucina items, such as the ever-changing polenta board. This one featured a rich mushroom ragu, and the polenta was creamy and savory.

Octopus Alla Plancha

One seafood primi was reminiscent of the previous kitchen — the Octopus Alla Plancha ($14) with piquillo pepper, smoked potato, and crispy pepperoni. The octopus was expertly prepared, tender without being chewy.

Cavatelli Mac and Cheese

David and I are difficult to please when it comes to pasta, so we were pleasantly surprised when, on a recent visit with friends, the texture and flavor of all four of our pasta dishes were flawless. They included the Squid Ink Fusilli with swordfish ($20), Cavatelli Mac and Cheese with black garlic ($16), Olive Pappardelle with lamb shoulder ragu ($20), and Saffron Bucatini with rock shrimp and clam ($19).

Chocolate Peanut Butter Bar

For dessert we shared the Chocolate Peanut Butter Bar ($9). David’s Hungarian family often jokes about how Hungarians hate peanut butter. But I had to fight David for the last bite of this one, as it was more like Nutter Butter meets Butterfingers — salty, sweet, and it made us happy.

Judging from our own experience, as well as that of others we’ve spoken to, Sorella is a welcome addition to the Kensington neighborhood. She may be the newest sister in the family, but I have a feeling she’ll be making her own mark.

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Snotty Hashtags: for when simply correcting someone doesn't give you a big enough sense of superiority!

July 1, 2016

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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