6700 W. Coast Highway
Newport Beach, CA 92663
Birthday dinner time, but where to go? Katie would be paying, so I did not want to go out for a crazy expensive meal, but I still wanted something nice. I checked out my list of restaurants that we have to try, and found Cucina Alessa. So we cut the birthday nap short, and headed to Newport Beach.
Cucina Alessa is located a little off the beaten track in Newport. It is right on PCH, right before you cross the bridge to head into Huntington Beach. The parking lot is real tiny, so that might be a problem during peak meal times and when the beach is crowded. We were given the option of sitting inside or out, so we opted for the small, but nice patio out front.
Cucina Alessa has three locations, all in beach towns, Laguna, HB, and this one in Newport. Chef and Owner, Alessandro Pirozzi, was born in Naples and learned his cooking style from his grandmother. His menu has all the usual Italian favorites from all over Italy. Let's see if this will be a birthday dinner to remember, or will I forget about it like my advancing age.
First up, a check of the Bread Basket and Pesto Dip. The bread here was simple, but we could not stop eating it. They cut a sturdy Italian bread into strips, and paired it with a solid pesto dip which included basil and olive oil. Not a bad start.
Nothing was really speaking to me on their appetizer menu, until I saw the Mamma Mia ($15.99). Three meatballs in a ragu with burrata on top of them. These meatballs were pretty good sized, and the burrata cheese made these very rich. The ragu was mild, but still managed to have a good flavor. These meatballs were served with focaccetta, which had a pizza crust kind of vibe, good for dipping into the sauce. We would not hesitate to order this appetizer again.
We both got side salads at Cucina Alessa. Katie selected the Della Casa ($4.50). This salad came with organic mixed greens, tomatoes, carrots, mushrooms, and shaved Parmesan, with an Italian herb vinaigrette. Katie called this salad, "good, but nothing out of the ordinary". She did remark that the vegetables used here were very fresh. I went with a Julius Caesar Salad ($4.75). For a side salad this was a decent size. This salad had plenty of Caesar dressing and garlic Parmesan croutons. The shaved pecorino was plentiful and really added to this salad.
Katie really seemed to zero in on what she was going to order very quickly, the Pollo Tortellini ($14.99). This plate was made up of rosemary chicken, shallots, and green onions, all in a tomato vodka cream sauce. This plate came out of the kitchen nice and hot, and Katie could not hold back her praise for this meal. She felt it was one of the best pasta dishes she has had in a long time. She could really taste the rosemary with the chicken. The sauce was full of flavor, without being too heavy. She would definitely get this pasta again here.
Unlike Katie, it took me forever to come up with what I wanted for my birthday dinner. I finally went with the Penne Funghi E Salsicce ($14.99), which is just a fancy way of saying mushroom and sausage penne. I almost always gravitate towards a sausage dish in an Italian restaurant. I might have to change it up a little bit in the future. I really liked the sauce in this pasta dish, but this meal really lacked the pop I was expecting. It needed more sausage, and some red pepper flakes could have helped out here as well. The pasta is freshly made, and I could definitely tell the difference. Good sized portion, but I will try something different on future visits here.
We really enjoyed our visit to Cucina Alessa. The restaurant, like the parking situation is very cramped though. The patio, where we were seated was very narrow and tables seemed to be very close to each other. Inside seemed to be the same and very noisy. The menu at Cucina Alessa is diverse enough that you should be able to find something you will definitely like. They have all of the Italian standards, made with very fresh ingredients. I am looking forward to trying more of their menu, and finding my, "go to" item here. The service was good on this night. Our waiter kept things moving along at a decent pace. The restaurant has a laid back, but nice feel to it. Not overly stuffy, but not a place to wear your swim trunks after a day at the beach. Prices are pretty good, especially for this area, and the portions sizes were good as well. Glad we finally made it to Cucina Alessa, looking forward to coming back.
Out of five tongue depressors, (not because this place will make you sick, but because this restaurant is just down the street from Hoag Hospital, and it is the largest employer in the city of Newport Beach), five being best to zero being worst, Cucina Alessa gets 3 tongue depressors.
For more information about Cucina Alessa, click here: http://www.cucinaalessa.com/