Making a strong case for being San Diego hottest foodie neighborhood, Little Italy is home to a number of celebrity chefs, including Brian Malarkey and Richard Blais, as well as rising stars equally deserving of recognition for both classic and inventive dishes. Once home to legions of Italian tuna fishermen, this historical neighborhood walks the line perfectly between honoring its history and basking in change. If you’re looking for handmade pasta or other delicacies of authentic Italian heritage, look no further. But if you’re looking for creative suds from a Danish brewer, ultra-hip coffee shops, fashion boutiques, and ice cream that’s developed a cult following, well, you’ve also come to the right place.
Where: West Date Street, between India and Columbia
The 10,000-square-foot European-style piazza is the new centerpiece of Little Italy. A beautiful fountain and tables and chairs provide a relaxing break from a day of strolling and shopping along this cobblestone street, and the rest of Little Italy. Stop by Amici Park with your four-legged friends, where you can enjoy performers who often entertain at the built-in Amphitheatre, and watch, or better yet, join in a game of bocce ball.
Where: 1909 India St
The decadence of this steakhouse would make the Great Gatsby blush. There’s more to this place than its grand wooden ceiling, white tuxedo-clad waiters, and gold flourishes, though. Cocktails (prepared tableside on wheeled carts), luxurious cuts of grass fed beef, bone marrow, foie gras, and steak tartare are all to the nines.
Where: 2228 Kettner Blvd
Those looking for exquisite molecular gastronomy will find it at this renowned “left-coast cookery” with an ever-changing menu of seasonal ingredients. Powered by all-star chefs, the kitchen turns out dish after dish that prove how this restaurant has continued to stay relevant and rack up awards for years on end.
Where: 2355 India St
Known as “the Space,” this airy indoor mini-mall houses James Coffee Co., a menswear boutique, eyeglass shop, a barbershop, and other retail shops. It’s a one-stop-shop for an oat milk chai latte, trying on shades, getting clipped, and getting hip.
Where: 621 W Fir St
Jewelry, gifts, and fragrances of the fun, cheeky, and sometimes profane variety abound inside a cute Craftsman house. You’ll find coffee mugs and houseware with inspirational or just plain funny curse-laden expressions, as well as edgy and stylish home accents for sharp-eyed and sharp-tongued shoppers.
Where: 750 W Fir St
Enjoy handcrafted organic fresh pasta, Milanese-style, for breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner. Order a cheese wheel pasta dish to watch as the dish is prepared inside a huge cheese wheel, tableside. Monello is among the restaurants that allow a fast-changing Little Italy to retain its status as an Italian cuisine destination.
Where: 2021 India St
Danish brewer Mikkel Borg Bjergsø brews up a rotating selection of up to 18 craft beers like the Resting Brew Face New England IPA, rum barrel-aged imperial stout, and Belgian strong golden ale. Murals adorning the walls resemble children’s book art.
Where: 2215 Kettner Blvd
This local winery sources grapes from Northern California and Oregon, then does every other aspect of production in San Diego. The spacious, garden patio is a relaxing spot to sample their white, red, rose, and blends by the glass, bottle, and flight. Pair that with an ample selection of cheeses that can be made into gorgeous custom cheese boards.
Where: 1670 India St
Save some room—and some time for the out-the-door-line—for this craft ice cream joint that has amassed a cult following. Flavors like honey lavender, wild-foraged berry slab pie, and smoked sea salt and chocolate crack have converted devotees up and down the West Coast.
Where: 2305 India St
Inspired by drinking emporiums in Europe, enjoy craft cocktails and gourmet pizza inside a spacious, inviting location bathed in sunshine from floor-to-ceiling windows. Watch sports on flat screens or try your hand on the massive shuffleboard court.
Where: 2210 Kettner Blvd
Adjacent to the more upscale Herb & Wood is this fast-casual, two-floor café where you can breakfast and lunch casually at group tables or couches. Pastries and bagels join the menu beside turkey sandwiches, salads, and pizza. Likewise, smoothies and coffee are right at home next to beer and wine.
Where: 2266 Kettner Blvd
The “crack” in the name refers to the menu of reinvented chicken-and-egg classics. It’s only local, free range birds here—but also to a secret spice blend. But it accurately describes the devastatingly addictive nature of sandwiches and more based around chicken fried to a crisp, ground into patties, and grilled and smoked to succulent perfection.