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Little Italy in San Diego is a chic pedestrian neighborhood that is located in downtown San Diego. This area of San Diego is packed with trendy bars, restaurants, and cafes and it just keeps getting better and better. Little Italy in other parts of the US have seen a decline in growth; however, in San Diego it’s quite the opposite. Exciting establishments have been popping up everywhere and there are more in the works. We were spending the weekend in Little Italy, so we didn’t have the time to visit every place that was on our list, but did a pretty good job getting a little taste of what this quaint neighborhood had to offer. We broke down our list into five categories: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Cocktails, and Desserts.
Frost Me Cafe & Bakery
If you love pastries with your morning coffee or tea, Frost Me Cafe & Bakery is a must. Their pastries are made in-house so when we went in for breakfast, our Morning Buns came straight out of the oven. It was warm and flaky and just want we needed to start off our mornings. We loved this place so much that we went two days in a row.
Lofty Coffee Co.
We found this community coffee shop when we were walking back to our accommodation at the Sonder. It’s bright, airy, and the patio overlooks the neighborhood. They roast their own coffee and bake their pastries in-house from scratch, yum! They also use organic ingredients from local producers, so their menu has a ton of fresh and healthy options.
James Coffee Co.
James Coffee is quite unique as it shares its “space” with other local retailers in the building. You can grab your coffee and also do a little shopping or even get a hair cut at the Urban Shave. The shops are catered more for the male demographic, but the surrounding areas have adorable boutiques for the ladies. It’s a space with a great mix of boutique shops and it’s also pet friendly.
Parakeet Cafe is opening soon in Little Italy and we just happened to see their sign next door to Salt & Straw where we were eating some ice cream. We wanted to mention Parakeet Cafe as we dined at their cafe in La Jolla (about 25 minutes north of Little Italy) last year and it was awesome. Their menu consists of fresh, organic, health-conscious items and they serve breakfast all day. They also have a unique selection of beverages, so it’s definitely a place we would stop by again and again if we lived nearby.
Ramen isn’t Italian food, but we are ramen junkies, so when we heard that there was one in Little Italy we couldn’t resist. We are happy to report that the ramen was delicious! We really enjoyed their broth as it was a little different from the ones we are used to. The broth had a hint of citrus to it that tasted like yuzu. The appetizers were average, so we recommend skipping the small dishes and focusing on the ramen selections.
Queenstown Public House
We walked pass this restaurant when we were on our way somewhere else and ended up returning as it was just too cute to pass up. It’s a whimsical New Zealand themed restaurant and if you aren’t paying attention, you just might mistake it for someone’s home as it’s located right in the middle of a neighborhood. It’s a dog friendly establishment and their menu is not one for those who want to eat light. The entree portions are generous and they have an extensive draft beer selection.
Mona Lisa Italian Restaurant
We didn’t have dinner here, but we did stop by their deli next door during the day when we were walking around the neighborhood. It caught our attention as it had that classic Italian vibe, but also because there were so many people walking in-and-out of the store. We spoke to a couple of guys who were eating their sandwiches right outside and they said they love the deli here. Indeed, the shop was filled with tons of Italian products and the line for the deli was pretty long. Everything looked delicious and we learned that the establishment is family owned and is now in its third generation of ownership.
Nonna + Zucchero
This restaurant is located right in the heart of Little Italy and they are known for their Italian comfort food (they even offer gluten free options). We both ordered pasta and they were cooked al dente just the way we like it. We appreciated that our dishes weren’t super heavy and really enjoyed our freshly baked bread appetizers. If you are a real fan of pasta, you can order Nonna’s Choice and get unlimited service of three of the chef’s choices of pasta ($24).
Born & Raised
If you want to sit outside and soak in the gorgeous sunset and views of Little Italy, Born & Raised is an excellent spot to grab some fancy cocktails. We had a couple of drinks here before we headed to our dinner reservations and really enjoyed our craft cocktails. If you want to dine here, located below is their steak restaurant. Even if you skip on dining here, we highly suggest popping your head in to view the IMPRESSIVE interior. It is so grand that it exudes luxury and it should considering that it cost an astounding 6.5 million dollars.
Cloak & Petal
We initially stopped in here for drinks, but ended up having a light meal as well. Their menu consisted of a variety of small Japanese dishes that ended up being our dinner for the night. What we really liked about this bar was the massive cherry blossom tree that draped the entire bar. The bartender was super friendly and we watched him craft a ton of beautifully decorated drinks. We both enjoyed our drinks and food at the bar and would love to come back and sit at one of their tables next time.
If you search google for “desserts in San Diego”, Extraordinary Desserts will be on every list you find. The desserts here really are exceptional and the attention to detail are phenomenal. We walked in this place and spent nearly 15 minutes just looking at all the dessert options that were so beautifully decorated. We both decided to dine in and enjoy our desserts instead of taking it home. They have a variety of exotic herbal teas to pair with your dessert which is a nice change from the usual coffee and tea. The portions are also quite large and can definitely be shared. I’m usually the type that takes a few bites out of my desserts, but I could’t stop eating my Caramelized Apple Pie and almost made myself sick. It was that good.
Salt & Straw
Crystal loves ice cream and I have heard so many great things about Salt & Straw so we were pretty excited to try their small batch ice creams. When we walked in, we were a little overwhelmed by their ice cream selection. We’re so used to the classic ice cream menu consisting of vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, etc. and that is not what you will be getting here. The selection of flavors isn’t long, but the flavors they do have are quite unique. We both tried a variety of samples before we settled on the Honey Lavender and Gingerbread Cookie Dough. We both enjoyed our ice cream and want to go back and try some of their other fun flavors. They have limited locations in the US (only six); however, if you join their “Seasonal Pints Club” they offer delivery services where you get choices like a five-pack of their newest seasonal flavors throughout the year. How cool is that?
We were only in town for the weekend, so we obviously couldn’t try everything we wanted to. Below are places we’d like to try the next time we are in Little Italy.
When we were walking around Little Italy, we couldn’t help but notice the huge line at Filippi’s Pizza. The line was longer than any of the other restaurants in the area and the line never dwindled. They are known for their traditional Northern Italian cuisine and have been in business for 68 years. They must be doing something right!
We were on our way to James Coffee when we walked by Nolita Hall. We couldn’t help but notice their huge selection of beer on tap and the beautiful decorations. The Christmas decor definitely added a lot to the space, but even without the festive ornaments this place stood out from afar. One thing that we noticed from standing outside this establishment was the number of airplanes that flew by at really close range. It’s quite loud, but seeing the aircrafts so up-close was fun to watch.
Pali Wine Co.
We wish we had time to stop by this adorable wine tasting room. They offer $15 wine flights and have the perfect food pairings to go with it. If you want some great views of Little Italy, they also have a rooftop deck with a relaxed and friendly atmosphere.
Where We Want to Dine Next Time…
Little Italy is growing and there have been a number of amazing establishments that have opened in recent years as well as exciting upcoming openings. Below is a list of places we would love to go to the next time we are in town: