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After my less-than-perfect experience at Barona's Seafood Plaza, I am happy to say that their Italian Cucina was wonderful! The atmosphere is much different than Seafood Plaza. At the Italian Cucina, there is a warm, friendlier feeling.
To start us off, one of the servers brought out a few Complimentary Munchies: breadsticks (plain and sesame), bread, olives, and olive oil with balsamic vinegar.
For an appetizer, we decided to try a small plate of the Ricotta Gnocchi Ragù ($7.95) - handmade potato dumplings with house ricotta cheese and traditional ragù. The dumplings were nice and soft, but also a little firm. The cheese and ragù were on the light side. The small plate was more than enough for two to try. But if you prefer, an entrée portion is available for $12.95.
Each entrée is served with your choice of a Caesar Salad Bowl or a House Salad Bowl. We each received enough salad for two. The salads are presented in a large wooden bowl with tongs for you to serve yourself in a smaller white bowl.
The Fruit from the Sea Tagliatelle (Small $8.95, Entrée $15.95) is prepared with clams, scallops, shrimp, mussels, tomato, and crispy calamari in a white wine garlic sauce with pasta. Everything was good, except for the pasta. It reminded me of a thick, very long version of the noodle in chicken noodle soup.
The Hearth-Roasted Pancetta-Wrapped Shrimp ($15.95) came with five extremely large shrimp topped with spinach, garlic, and shaved fennel. The shrimp were presented on creamy yellow corn polenta in a limoncello vinaigrette. Everything looked good on the menu, but I didn't realize that the polenta would be soaking in the vinaigrette. It was good, but a little too soggy for me.
Our desserts were delicious! The Torta Di Cioccolato ($6.50) - warm flourless chocolate cake - was made with mocha ganache and served with the most yummy whipped cream and a few berries with a little berry sauce. But what was even better than this was the Balsamic-Marinated Strawberries ($6.50). It came out in a gigantic martini glass. The strawberries were at the bottom, then there were two scoops of ice cream/gelato (chocolate and mascarpone) with two almond biscotti-like cookies. So good! I've never had mascarpone gelato before, but it's like vanilla's cooler cousin. The cookies weren't hard like biscottis. They had just a hint of crispiness to them.
I know... We had a lot of food, but all of it was only $52.85 and we had a voucher for $50 (and we received another coupon for 2-for-1 entrées for our next visit). We ended up taking about half of it home.
I definitely recommend the Italian Cucina. They have reasonable prices and generous portions. Also, our server was very friendly. If you do decide to go, try to remember that they are not open on Tuesdays or Wednesdays. They also have a small bakery counter where you can buy assorted cookies and pastries that are not listed on their dessert menu, so be sure to walk by and take a look. Enjoy!
Italian Cucina at Barona Resort & Casino
1932 Wildcat Canyon Road
Lakeside CA 92040