One of San Diego’s foundational restaurant families is expanding its footprint in Little Italy where they’ve operated a succession of establishments over the past two decades. Lala is opening on India Street next to Barbusa, the modern Sicilian spot backed by Busalacchi Restaurants, which also runs the nearby Nonna and Café Zucchero. Founded by Joe Busalacchi Sr. in 1984, the group is now led by a second generation of Busalacchi’s that includes his sons PJ, Joey, and Mike, with their cousins Vince Busalacchi and Nino Zizzo, who oversees the culinary side.
Lala is scheduled to debut in early 2024 after a complete transformation that will turn what was once a pet supply and grooming business into a cozy and stylish 1,000-square-foot restaurant and cocktail bar. Designer Taylor Shaffer, formerly a principal partner at Open Gym (White Rice, Wildflour), is adding a covered garden patio and decorating the 50-seat dining room in shades of coral and burnt sienna with two-toned olive leather and velvet furnishings, antique mirrors, and walnut wood paneling.
Zizzo’s seasonal menu will revolve around Italian classics with some elements of broader Mediterranean cuisine; the restaurant will serve dinner nightly, staying open until midnight on weekends. The group’s lead bartender, Antonio Gonzales (formerly Juniper & Ivy, Stake Chophouse) is developing a drink list that leans Italian, with a focus on barrel-aged cocktails.