Situated on a bustling Preston Center corner, the newly opened Cucina Neighborhood Italian provides the perfect setting for a progressive dinner — one with multiple venues — as soon as you step inside.
Enter the two-story restaurant through the front door downstairs and take a seat at the bar for Italian-themed cocktails such as the Aperol spritz, made with chilled Zonin prosecco, Aperol (an Italian aperitif similar to Campari, but milder) and orange zest. Move upstairs to the dimly lit dining room for a three-course meal, starting with the shrimp tower, piled high with romaine lettuce, shrimp, tomato, gorgonzola, egg, avocado, heart of palm and pancetta, topped with spicy avocado vinaigrette. It’s one of the restaurant’s most popular salads, says executive chef Mark “Kool Breeze” Sims. Follow that with the baked rigatoni with sausage, or for a lighter option, order the vegan menu’s stuffed portobello mushroom caps.
The bruschetta-like entree is topped with basil-pesto couscous, Italian pico de gallo and toasted pine nuts.
Since fall is the time for al fresco dining in Dallas, step onto the second-floor patio for dessert. The enclosed space features a retractable roof and open-air windows, great for people watching as Preston Center visitors shop below.
Aside from fresh paint and new furniture, the space is essentially the same as its previous incarnations: Mi Piaci Restaurant and, before that, Ocho Kitchen and Cocktails. However, despite Cucina’s stylish interior, its menu focuses on Italian classics such as fried calamari and the aforementioned rigatoni.
“We call it rustic Italian,” owner/partner Ben Crosland says.
He says chef Sims uses seasonal and local ingredients. For example, the restaurant makes an effort to buy organic and hormone-free meat from family-owned farms.
“Most dishes have five ingredients or less. Chef Sims likes to keep it straightforward and let the fresh food do the talking,” Crosland says.
Cucina Neighborhood Italian
8411 Preston, Suite 132
Lunch: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Mon.-Fri.
Dinner: 5-10 p.m. Sun.-Thurs., 5-11 p.m. Fri. and Sat.
Brunch: 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Sun.
Happy Hour: 4-6:30 p.m. Mon.-Fri.
Bypass the complimentary valet and enter the restaurant through the “secret door,” accessible from the second floor of the parking garage.
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