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Where to Eat and Drink in Little Italy

15 essential spots in this historic hood

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A bustling residential and business district since the 1920s, and once home to San Diego's prolific tuna fishing industry, today Little Italy is the hub of one of San Diego’s most dynamic and fastest-growing food scenes. The lively neighborhood is packed with distinctive eateries, craft brew pubs, urban wine bars, cocktail hotspots and casual cafés, helmed by old school Italian families and Top Chef alums alike. For visitors and locals, a stroll through Amici Park and Mercato Farmers’ Market (Saturdays, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.) is not to be missed, preferably with gelato in hand.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Juniper & Ivy

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2228 Kettner Blvd
San Diego, CA
(858) 481-3666
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Acclaimed chef Richard Blais has been serving up creative New American fare with a “West Coast edge” since 2014 at his lavish 7,500-square-foot warehouse-restaurant-come-design-showcase. Well worth a splurge, the inventive menu plays with molecular cuisine, which is perfectly offset by a sophisticated wine list, superb cocktail program and impeccable service.

Courtesy Photo

2. Crack Shack

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2266 Kettner Blvd
San Diego, CA
(619) 795-3299
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Signature staples at Richard Blais’ casual chicken and egg concept include the fried organic chicken sandwich, Coop Deville, kimchi-seasoned deviled eggs, and chicken drumsticks fashioned into poultry lollipops. Enjoy with a craft beer, wine on tap or craft cocktail over a leisurely game of bocce on the outdoor court. 

3. Herb & Wood

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2210 Kettner Blvd
San Diego, CA
(619) 955-8495
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Celebrity chef Brian Malarkey’s subtle yet refined 8,500-square-foot stunner comprises multiple spaces to relax and dine including an elegant bar, informal lounge areas and several separate dining spaces. Dishes on the menu are a simple rundown of each plate's seasonal ingredients, while cocktails have a botanical focus with fresh ingredients, fruit and herb-infused bitters. 

4. James Coffee Co.

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2355 India St
San Diego, CA
(619) 756-7770
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Founder and head roaster David Kennedy's perennially popular loft-like outpost on India Street specializes in single origin coffees and handcrafted roasted blends in pour over, batch brew, and espresso form alongside yummy breads and pastries from Le Parfait Paris.

James Coffee Co.

5. Bottlecraft Beer Shop & Tasting Room

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2252 India St
San Diego, CA
(619) 487-9493
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Showcasing hundreds of hard to find beers, Bottlecraft boasts a bar fed by 25 draft lines, a retail section and upstairs space that is used for private events, classes and additional seating. It's open from noon to 10 p.m. on weekdays, 12 p.m. to 12 a.m. on Friday and Saturday and 10 p.m. on Sunday. Pups are welcome and you can bring your own food or order delivery from nearby area eateries, including Napizza's and RakiRaki Ramen. 

6. RoVino Rotisserie + Wine

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2034 Kettner Blvd
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 269-9341
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Open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Sunday, with breakfast served every Sunday from 8:30 a.m. until noon, RoVino’s kitchen is led by classically Italian trained chef David Mendiola, who oversees a menu that includes rotisserie chicken, crisp porchetta sandwiches, and seasonal specials; plus homemade pasta and a whole roasted branzino.

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7. The Waterfront Bar & Grill

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2044 Kettner Blvd
San Diego, CA
(619) 232-9656
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Established in 1934, Little Italy icon The Waterfront is one of one of San Diego’s oldest taverns and one of the first to obtain a liquor license here after Prohibition. Famed for its solid pub grub, action packed nights and a good-time crowd, the drinks — like owner Nancy’s signature vodka, Chambord and soda concoction, the Purple Hooter are stiff but simple.

The Waterfront Bar Courtesy Photo

8. Kettner Exchange

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2001 Kettner Blvd
San Diego, CA
(619) 255-2001
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An eye-catching restaurant-come-cocktail bar, Kettner Exchange boasts a progressive American menu with French and Asian influences thanks to executive chef Brian Redzikowski, and a stellar cocktail program courtesy of beverage director Steven Tuttle. Whether you come to dine with friends downstairs, people watch on the rooftop terrace or savor weekend brunch on Sundays; KEX has it all in stylish spades.  

9. Mona Lisa Italian Restaurant

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2061 India St
San Diego, CA
(619) 234-4893
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With roots stretching back to 1956, this charming old school Italian deli is a must-visit if only to peruse its fine selection of fresh breads, olives and hard-to-find imported edibles before ordering one of their deluxe deli sandwiches. Meanwhile, the adjacent restaurant offers a wide selection of pizzas, pastas and salads during lunch and dinner alongside a nice variety of Italian and Californian wines.

Courtesy Image

10. Craft & Commerce

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675 W Beech St
San Diego, CA
(619) 269-2202

First launched in 2010, storied cocktail bar Craft & Commerce boasts two bar areas, a progressive drinks program, and menu offerings from small share plates to housemade pasta and larger entrees, not to mention a real deal tiki bar, False Idol, tucked within the space. Open for dinner daily at 5 p.m., there’s a weekend brunch on Sunday too. 

11. Ironside Fish & Oyster

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1654 India St
San Diego, CA
(619) 269-3033
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Executive chef Jason McLeod's seafood-serving stunner features everything from a fried oyster po’ boy to lobster rolls and seafood platters, all served daily for lunch and dinner. Ironside's raw bar stays humming until midnight and on Fridays and Saturdays, both the raw bar and the cocktail bar are open until 2 a.m. Snag $1 oysters during happy hour, which runs Monday to Friday from 3 to 6 p.m. 

Ironside Fish & Oyster

12. Isola Pizza Bar

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1526 India Street
San Diego, CA
(619) 255-4230
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Opened on India Street in 2012, at Massimo Tenino's pizza shop you’ll find Neapolitan-style pies and small plates all served up in sleek, contemporary surroundings. In-the-know locals are clued into its daily happy hour, when you can enjoy select $5 wines and $4 beers alongside $5 margherita pizzas. From the regular lunch and dinner menus there are antipasti classics, salads, homemade panini and wood-fired entrees too, plus an extensive Italian wine list. 

13. Civico 1845

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1845 India St
San Diego, CA
(619) 431-5990
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The Southern Italian restaurant’s head chef Alfonso Pisacane employs housemade and seasonal ingredients in his repertoire of traditional and modern Italian cuisine, while co-owner Pietro Gallo adds a vegan and gluten-free touch to the menu with dishes like seitan ragout lasagna and even a vegan version of tiramisu, at this charming India Street eatery.

civico Courtesy Photo

14. Pappalecco

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1602 State St
San Diego, CA
(619) 238-4590
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Tuscan-style cafe Pappalecco now boasts five outposts around San Diego but its Little Italy flagship, where the cafe and gelateria was founded in 2007, and is fondly considered a neighborhood icon. Open from 7 a.m. until 11 p.m. most evenings, you can load up on breakfast plates and Italian staples like panini, pizzas, delicious housemade gelato, excellent coffees, and of course fine Italian wines. 

Pappalecco Courtesy Photo

15. Extraordinary Desserts

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1430 Union St
San Diego, CA
(619) 294-7001
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Crowds flock to owner/executive pastry chef Karen Krasne’s 7,000-square-foot palatial dessert destination to savor pastries and coffee before noon, savory snacks from panini to salads during lunch, plus a popular weekend brunch, in addition to Krasne’s signature decadent cakes, pies, cookies and petite desserts. 

extraordinary desserts Courtesy Photo

1. Juniper & Ivy

2228 Kettner Blvd, San Diego, CA
Courtesy Photo

Acclaimed chef Richard Blais has been serving up creative New American fare with a “West Coast edge” since 2014 at his lavish 7,500-square-foot warehouse-restaurant-come-design-showcase. Well worth a splurge, the inventive menu plays with molecular cuisine, which is perfectly offset by a sophisticated wine list, superb cocktail program and impeccable service.

2228 Kettner Blvd
San Diego, CA

2. Crack Shack

2266 Kettner Blvd, San Diego, CA

Signature staples at Richard Blais’ casual chicken and egg concept include the fried organic chicken sandwich, Coop Deville, kimchi-seasoned deviled eggs, and chicken drumsticks fashioned into poultry lollipops. Enjoy with a craft beer, wine on tap or craft cocktail over a leisurely game of bocce on the outdoor court. 

2266 Kettner Blvd
San Diego, CA

3. Herb & Wood

2210 Kettner Blvd, San Diego, CA

Celebrity chef Brian Malarkey’s subtle yet refined 8,500-square-foot stunner comprises multiple spaces to relax and dine including an elegant bar, informal lounge areas and several separate dining spaces. Dishes on the menu are a simple rundown of each plate's seasonal ingredients, while cocktails have a botanical focus with fresh ingredients, fruit and herb-infused bitters. 

2210 Kettner Blvd
San Diego, CA

4. James Coffee Co.

2355 India St, San Diego, CA
James Coffee Co.

Founder and head roaster David Kennedy's perennially popular loft-like outpost on India Street specializes in single origin coffees and handcrafted roasted blends in pour over, batch brew, and espresso form alongside yummy breads and pastries from Le Parfait Paris.

2355 India St
San Diego, CA

5. Bottlecraft Beer Shop & Tasting Room

2252 India St, San Diego, CA

Showcasing hundreds of hard to find beers, Bottlecraft boasts a bar fed by 25 draft lines, a retail section and upstairs space that is used for private events, classes and additional seating. It's open from noon to 10 p.m. on weekdays, 12 p.m. to 12 a.m. on Friday and Saturday and 10 p.m. on Sunday. Pups are welcome and you can bring your own food or order delivery from nearby area eateries, including Napizza's and RakiRaki Ramen. 

2252 India St
San Diego, CA

6. RoVino Rotisserie + Wine

2034 Kettner Blvd, San Diego, CA 92101
Courtesy Photo

Open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Sunday, with breakfast served every Sunday from 8:30 a.m. until noon, RoVino’s kitchen is led by classically Italian trained chef David Mendiola, who oversees a menu that includes rotisserie chicken, crisp porchetta sandwiches, and seasonal specials; plus homemade pasta and a whole roasted branzino.

2034 Kettner Blvd
San Diego, CA 92101

7. The Waterfront Bar & Grill

2044 Kettner Blvd, San Diego, CA
The Waterfront Bar Courtesy Photo

Established in 1934, Little Italy icon The Waterfront is one of one of San Diego’s oldest taverns and one of the first to obtain a liquor license here after Prohibition. Famed for its solid pub grub, action packed nights and a good-time crowd, the drinks — like owner Nancy’s signature vodka, Chambord and soda concoction, the Purple Hooter are stiff but simple.

2044 Kettner Blvd
San Diego, CA

8. Kettner Exchange

2001 Kettner Blvd, San Diego, CA

An eye-catching restaurant-come-cocktail bar, Kettner Exchange boasts a progressive American menu with French and Asian influences thanks to executive chef Brian Redzikowski, and a stellar cocktail program courtesy of beverage director Steven Tuttle. Whether you come to dine with friends downstairs, people watch on the rooftop terrace or savor weekend brunch on Sundays; KEX has it all in stylish spades.  

2001 Kettner Blvd
San Diego, CA

9. Mona Lisa Italian Restaurant

2061 India St, San Diego, CA
Courtesy Image

With roots stretching back to 1956, this charming old school Italian deli is a must-visit if only to peruse its fine selection of fresh breads, olives and hard-to-find imported edibles before ordering one of their deluxe deli sandwiches. Meanwhile, the adjacent restaurant offers a wide selection of pizzas, pastas and salads during lunch and dinner alongside a nice variety of Italian and Californian wines.

2061 India St
San Diego, CA

10. Craft & Commerce

675 W Beech St, San Diego, CA

First launched in 2010, storied cocktail bar Craft & Commerce boasts two bar areas, a progressive drinks program, and menu offerings from small share plates to housemade pasta and larger entrees, not to mention a real deal tiki bar, False Idol, tucked within the space. Open for dinner daily at 5 p.m., there’s a weekend brunch on Sunday too. 

675 W Beech St
San Diego, CA

11. Ironside Fish & Oyster

1654 India St, San Diego, CA
Ironside Fish & Oyster

Executive chef Jason McLeod's seafood-serving stunner features everything from a fried oyster po’ boy to lobster rolls and seafood platters, all served daily for lunch and dinner. Ironside's raw bar stays humming until midnight and on Fridays and Saturdays, both the raw bar and the cocktail bar are open until 2 a.m. Snag $1 oysters during happy hour, which runs Monday to Friday from 3 to 6 p.m. 

1654 India St
San Diego, CA

12. Isola Pizza Bar

1526 India Street, San Diego, CA

Opened on India Street in 2012, at Massimo Tenino's pizza shop you’ll find Neapolitan-style pies and small plates all served up in sleek, contemporary surroundings. In-the-know locals are clued into its daily happy hour, when you can enjoy select $5 wines and $4 beers alongside $5 margherita pizzas. From the regular lunch and dinner menus there are antipasti classics, salads, homemade panini and wood-fired entrees too, plus an extensive Italian wine list. 

1526 India Street
San Diego, CA

13. Civico 1845

1845 India St, San Diego, CA
civico Courtesy Photo

The Southern Italian restaurant’s head chef Alfonso Pisacane employs housemade and seasonal ingredients in his repertoire of traditional and modern Italian cuisine, while co-owner Pietro Gallo adds a vegan and gluten-free touch to the menu with dishes like seitan ragout lasagna and even a vegan version of tiramisu, at this charming India Street eatery.

1845 India St
San Diego, CA

14. Pappalecco

1602 State St, San Diego, CA
Pappalecco Courtesy Photo

Tuscan-style cafe Pappalecco now boasts five outposts around San Diego but its Little Italy flagship, where the cafe and gelateria was founded in 2007, and is fondly considered a neighborhood icon. Open from 7 a.m. until 11 p.m. most evenings, you can load up on breakfast plates and Italian staples like panini, pizzas, delicious housemade gelato, excellent coffees, and of course fine Italian wines. 

1602 State St
San Diego, CA

15. Extraordinary Desserts

1430 Union St, San Diego, CA
extraordinary desserts Courtesy Photo

Crowds flock to owner/executive pastry chef Karen Krasne’s 7,000-square-foot palatial dessert destination to savor pastries and coffee before noon, savory snacks from panini to salads during lunch, plus a popular weekend brunch, in addition to Krasne’s signature decadent cakes, pies, cookies and petite desserts. 

1430 Union St
San Diego, CA

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