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Japanese and Italian Cuisines Come Together in North Park

CinKuni is opening this month in the former Tiger!Tiger! space.

Mural of sumo wrestler on moped with a lucky cat in their hand.
Kelly Bone

A new restaurant serving both sushi and spaghetti is set to open in North Park by the end of July. Named after its two owners, CinKuni brings together longtime friends and experienced restaurateurs Cinzia Zolfanelli and Kuniko Holmes in the former Tiger!Tiger! space on El Cajon Boulevard.

Holmes previously operated downtown’s Sushi 2, the successor of longtime San Diego staple Sushi Deli. When the Spreckels Building recently fell under new ownership, bringing rent increases and new building standards, Holmes decided it was time to move onto a different project.

Her co-owner in CinKuni and its executive chef is Cinzia Zolfanelli, who opened Pacific Beach’s Mamma Mia in 2007 and shuttered the Italian spot during the pandemic. The close friends, who met on a dance floor, bonded as restaurant owners and single moms.

Dining room with wooden chairs and swings.
Interior of CinKuni
Kelly Bone
Beet taps with Japanese-style golden lucky cat mural.
Beer taps CinKuni
Kelly Bone
Heart of palm sushi rolled with avocado and inari.
Vegan sushi roll
Courtesy Photos

Their new collaboration unites the two women in a restaurant that fuses Japanese ingredients with Italian cooking in a ”wafu” style of cooking that has long been popular in Japan where it’s not uncommon to find spaghetti accented with soy sauce or pizza spread with miso paste.

There are crunchy rolls stuffed with shrimp and crab, or a vegan version with hearts of palm and avocado, and fans of Cinzia’s Italian cooking will enjoy her fresh tomato bruschetta and beef carpaccio with walnuts and arugula, but some dishes also blend the two cuisines. Meat and vegetables are tenderized in koji (a fermented rice that develops rich flavors in foods), sake is reduced into sauces where white wine would traditionally be used, and umami-rich miso is now incorporated into Zolfanelli’s marinara sauce.

The existing wood fired oven will sizzle with pizzas topped with familiar items like artichokes and Italian sausage but also inari (fried tofu) and shishito peppers. Dessert includes traditional and matcha tiramisu and a sphere of Italian gelato deep fried in tempura batter.

Pasta tossed with clams, miso sake sauce, fish eggs, and bonito flakes.
Spaghetti Calimero
Creamy tiramisu sprinkled with green matcha powder and served with strawberries.
Matcha Tiramisu
Two woman with glasses of white wine smiling towards the camera.
Kuniko Holmes and Cinzia Zolfanelli


3025 El Cajon Boulevard, San Diego, CA 92104