"This post contains affiliate links, which means that at no additional cost to you if you click on one of the product links, we may earn a commission." - * We recommend reading this particular post on your desktop for a better user experience.
When I first moved to San Diego, I heard a ton about the Gaslamp Quarter and not much about Little Italy. Both districts are located in Downtown San Diego but I prefer Little Italy over Gaslamp for a number of reasons. Little Italy is an adorable neighborhood that is less touristy and there have been a ton of new cafes, restaurants, and bars emerging in this quaint community.
7:30 AM: BREAKFAST AT 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 morning.
8:30 AM: EXPLORE & SHOP AT THE MERCATO FARMER’S MARKET
Frost Me Cafe & Bakery is located right in the middle of the Farmer’s Market so it was the perfect location to have our breakfast. We walked around and got to taste a lot of goodies from different vendors. We came across one local vendor called MULK Co. that offered us a tasting of their cold-pressed almond drink. It was delicious and a great alternative beverage for people that are lactose intolerant.
10:00 AM: TOUR SHIPS & SUBMARINES AT THE MARITIME MUSEUM
After the Farmer’s Market head straight down the street to the Maritime Museum. You can either walk down to this museum or hop on a ride share scooter. There are a ton of ships to explore here and we especially enjoyed walking around the submarines.
12:00 PM: LUNCH & DESSERT AT EXTRAORDINARY DESSERTS
After exploring the Maritime Museum for about 2.5 hours, we were getting hungry and decided to have a bite at Extraordinary Desserts. Extraordinary Desserts is well-known for their exceptional desserts, but they also serve delicious sandwiches. We were pretty stuffed after having our sandwiches and dessert, so we decided to walk around Little Italy to burn off some of the calories.
1:30 PM: TAKE PICS AT THE LITTLE ITALY SIGN
After getting some fuel back into our system, we began to explore the main area of Little Italy on India Street. The streets in Little Italy are pedestrian friendly and there are so many things to explore in this adorable neighborhood. You can’t miss the Little Italy sign as it stands out from afar. It was constructed to pay tribute to the immigrant neighborhood and if you look closely at the mosaic tile work (on the poles at each end) you will find stories about the neighborhood.
2:00 PM: RELAX AT THE PIAZZA DELIA FAMIGLIA
The Piazza delia Famiglia is still fairly new and is a charming 10,000-square-foot European-style piazza. On one end is a gorgeous tiled water fountain and on the other end you can get a beautiful view of the San Diego Bay. It’s a great place to hang out and enjoy the amazing weather, so after we purchased our ice cream from Salt & Straw we sat at one of the many community tables outside.
3:30 PM: STOP BY THE LEGENDARY MONA LISA ITALIAN FOODS
Little Italy is rapidly growing with exciting new establishments, but there are also some classics in the neighborhood that are likely to stay forever. Mona Lisa Italian Foods was established in 1956 and is in its third generation of ownership. This place was bustling when we popped in as you can find an array of pasta, cheese, wine, and much more.
5:00 PM: CRAFT COCKTAILS AT CLOAK + PETAL
We didn’t have any dinner reservations here, so we grabbed a couple of seats at the bar. The bar also served tapas style Japanese dishes so we ordered a few plates and a couple of drinks. Both the food and drinks were delicious and the bartender was very friendly.
7:00 PM: DINNER AT RAKIRAKI RAMEN
Ramen in Little Italy? It sounds strange, but Little Italy in San Diego has a variety of cuisines that aren’t just Italian. We can’t help but try ramen wherever we go, so of course we had to try Rakiraki Ramen. We are happy to report that the ramen was delicious and we really enjoyed their broth as it had a hint of citrus flavor to it.
9:00 AM: BREAKFAST AT LOFTY COFFEE CO.
This local cafe is bright, airy, and the patio overlooks the charming neighborhood of Little Italy. They roast their own coffee and bake their pastries from scratch, yum! They also use organic ingredients from local producers, so their menu has a ton of fresh and healthy options.
10:00 AM: WANDER AROUND SEAPORT VILLAGE
Seaport Village isn’t part of Little Italy, but it was just over a mile away so we hopped on a scooter and made our way towards the harbor. It was an adorable little area with picturesque shops and we were thrilled to see another Frost Me Bakery here. If you fancy seafood, there are a ton of booths along the harbor serving up fresh plates of seafood goodness.
12:00: LUNCH AT QUEENSTOWN PUBLIC HOUSE
A whimsical New Zealand themed restaurant and if aren’t paying attention you just might mistake it for someone’s home as it’s located right in the middle of Little Italy’s neighborhood. The entree portions are generous and they have an extensive draft beer selection.
1:30 PM: CHILL & WATCH PLANES FLY OVER AT NOLITA HALL
We couldn’t believe how close the planes were flying overhead at Nolita Hall and couldn’t get enough of their huge Split Flap display. The display posts flight information at the precise moment that a plane flies overhead. It’s quite mesmerizing watching this huge board constantly flip information as planes fly by at such close range.
3:00 PM: GRAB A CUP OF JAMES COFFEE & SHOP AT THE “SPACE”
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. We like popping our head into these charming boutiques as we always manage to find something unique.
5:00 PM: FANCY COCKTAILS AT BORN & RAISED
This place exudes luxury and it should considering that it cost an astounding 6.5 million dollars to build. You can have some amazing steaks at their restaurant or head up stairs to their open air bar for some fancy craft cocktails.
7:00 PM: DINNER AT 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 we appreciated that our dishes weren’t super heavy and really enjoyed our freshly baked bread appetizers. If you are a huge fan of pasta, they had on the menu an all-you-can-eat pasta entree.
8:30 PM: DESSERT AT SALT & STRAW ICE CREAM
The selection of flavors here 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 the Limited Edition Gingerbread Cookie Dough. We both enjoyed our ice cream and will definitely go back to try some of their other fun flavors.
WHERE WE STAYED
We loved our accommodation at the Sonder, which was located right in the heart of Little Italy. We enjoyed staying here since it was located right around everything we wanted to do over the weekend. There was no need for a car or Uber as everything was within walking distance. When we felt a little lazy, we just hopped on one of the ride-share scooters that was scattered all around town. Extra bonus that the room was equipped with a kitchen, washer/dryer, and the decor was super chic.
Parking is quite limited in Little Italy. There are some parking garages and metered parking; however, we found it best to explore the area utilizing the ride-share scooters that were pretty much on every street corner. We downloaded two different ride-share apps, Bird and Lime, and created our accounts beforehand. The reason we recommend downloading both is that you can get free credits on your first ride on both accounts. Plus, sometimes you will find one of the scooters instead of the other. Just remember, you are not invincible and to obey all the street signs as you normally would when driving.
The great thing about Little Italy is that it’s super close to San Diego International Airport. You could even explore the area on a layover as the airport is only three miles (4.8km.) away.
Addio, Little Italy!