Cucina Enoteca coming to Fashion Island

Cucina Enoteca, an Italian restaurant that is part food, part retail, is opening a second Orange County location at Newport Beach's Fashion Island next year.

"I think it's a perfect fit for us," said Tracy Borkum, principal of Urban Kitchen Group, which operates the Cucina restaurants.

Cucina Enoteca markets itself as a modern-meets-rustic Italian kitchen with a "restaurant to retail" concept, where just about everything is on sale.

Diners can buy the chairs they're sitting on, the light fixtures above them or hand-selected wines from the dedicated wine shop.

The concept was born in 2009 when Cucina Urbana opened in San Diego.

In 2011, Borkum brought Cucina Enoteca to the Irvine Spectrum.

"Obviously, coming into a new market when we did in December of 2011, that was quite a frightening feat for us," she said. "It's been unbelievable. The restaurant was so well received, almost instantaneously."

She's hoping to continue that magic with the Newport location's planned opening in May.

Borkum chose the Fashion Island location, across from Nordstrom, when the Irvine Co. approached her with the idea after she started considering a second Orange County location.

The Irvine Co. operates the Irvine Spectrum and Fashion Island.

Opening in Fashion Island was a no-brainer, she said.

"We just have had a remarkable experience at the Spectrum and with the Irvine Co.," Borkum said.

Borkum is looking for local artists to help furnish and decorate the new location, something that's been a challenge in Orange County as she's based in San Diego.

Fashion Island's restaurant will be a familiar setting for anyone who has been to the Irvine Spectrum location.

"It's predominantly going to feel the same or similar," she said.

Each Cucina location has a certain level of unique elements, Borkum explained, by tapping artists to create the decor and retail pieces for sale.

"But the platform of the concept and the brand and the culture of Cucina is really, really well represented in Irvine," she added.

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