Little Italy is a chic, walkable neighborhood near Downtown San Diego offering specialty Italian restaurants, trendy cocktail bars, brewpubs and lively patios with a nod to classic Californian style. These contemporary hot spots dot every inch of the neighborhood, making it the perfect location for a variety of choices.
Now that you know the style of the neighborhood, let’s talk about the food. Culinary craft is among the best in all of San Diego county. From famous Californian chefs to family owned niche small shops, the food in Little Italy is unique, bold and vast. Here is our guide to the top restaurants in Little Italy of San Diego.
the top restaurants in little italy for breakfast
Morning Glory is the new kid on the block in Little Italy, but it definitely established its place here quickly. Trendy and funky, Morning Glory is bright, pink-hued and Gatsby-esque serving global brunch items and creative boozy beverages.
MENU: Global Breakfast
STAFF RECO: Khachapuri or Morning Glory Fried Rice
Herb & Eatery is a gourmet market style café serving up delicious breakfast staples, sandwiches, salads and by night, classic pizzas. Casual and charming, this a quick stop for a snack on your morning walk by the bay. Brought you to by the same chefs of the locally famous Herb & Wood and Herb & Sea, this joint is well-known to the foodies and is a recognized restaurant in Little Italy.
MENU: Café (breakfast, lunch, pizza parlor 4pm-8)
DRINK RECO: Ginger & juice
FOOD RECO: Thai Croissant
Open from morning to morning (7am – 2am), Zinqué is a sophisticated, trendy, french style café and restaurant serving breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, snacks and drinks all day long.
BREAKFAST RECO: Prosciutto and Gruyére Croissant
LUNCH RECO: Camembert, Arugula, Green Apple Sandwich or the Bahn Mi
DINNER RECO: Smoked Salmon Carpaccio
the top restaurants in little italy for lunch
Café Gratitude is a trendy LA chain serving up hip, plant-based fares with in a clean, vibrant atmosphere. Also a great joint for breakfast.
FOOD RECO: Magical Black Bean Burger
The Crack Shack is a famous spot serving up SoCal style fried chicken and its comfort food counterparts. The sunny Cali spirit is exactly the atmosphere you can expect here, with spacious outdoor seating, lawn games and Cali inspired craft cocktails, this place is nothing short of a great time.
INDULGING RECO: Coop Deville Sandwich and Mini Biscuits
HEALTHY RECO: Baja Chop Salad
Harumama brings the unique flavors and dishes of Japan to the streets of San Diego. Using a modern approach, Harumama specializes in ramen, bao buns, sushi and other Japanese inspired snacks and treats. The perfect lunch spot to fill your Asian take-out style cravings. From 11am to 3pm enjoy their pick 2 for $13.95 lunch special (mon-thurs only).
RAMEN RECO: Me So Hot
BUN RECO: Crunchy Shrimp Bao Bao
SUSHI RECO: Red Dragon
the top restaurants in little italy for dinner
Quaint, cozy and a replica of a pasta shop off the streets of Italy. You can feel the Italian roots seeping from the walls here. With a contemporary approach on classic Italian dishes, your options range from scratch made pasta to Vegan entreés. This one is ranked among the top Vegan restaurants in San Diego. DISCLAIMER: Only spirit served here is wine
ANTI PASTA RECO: Customizable Formaggio + Prosciutto Bar
VEGAN RECO: Ravioli Zucca
PASTA RECO: Garganelli Zafferano
Rustic meets upscale, Herb & Wood emphasizes wood-fired dishes from executive chefs providing decades of culinary expertise. The meals provoke conversation and enjoyment, a dining experience with the total package.
MENU: New American
APP RECO: Smoked Salmon
ENTREÉ RECO: Grilled Lamb Loin
PASTA RECO: Menu changes frequently, but if you’re lucky try the Mafalde
Japanese tapas and craft cocktails are the specialty here. Cloak & Petal transports you to the world of Tokyo, alluding to the streets and style of its roots.
ROLL RECO: Face It, You’re Basic
FOOD RECO: Shrimp Tempura Bowl
Straight out of the Gatsby era, the luxurious, timeless interior of this steakhouse primes you for the level of detail you’ll see in the cuisine. From fur covered seats to a spacious, airy rooftop you will be enjoying the scenes just as much as your high-end steak and cocktail.
HOW TO ORDER: Pick your flank, from Classic Filets to Dry-Aged T-Bones then pick your add-on or cooking preference – options include Oscar-Style, Butter Poached Lobster, Truffles or Blue Cheese Crust, to name a few. Choose your sauce and choose your extra, at just $10 pick from Dirty Hashbrowns, Onion Rings, Roasted Cauliflower, Mac + Cheese and many more.
OTHER SIDE OF THE PASTURE RECO: If a steak isn’t your route, there are some options from “The Other Side of the Pasture”. This menu changes frequently but the sample menu item I recommend is the Cook Pigs Dry-Aged Pork with pumpkin and brussels sprouts.
Constantly evolving menu from celebrity chef Richard Blais. The food here is delicate and unique, with flavors meant to be slowly enjoyed just like your experience there. Fish and other high end meats are the top selections here for one of the best dinner spots in San Diego .
MENU: New American
FOOD RECO: Short Rib & Cheddar Arancini
Lively and Modern, Barbusa is the upbeat version of the quaint and charming Civico 1845. The pasta options here are handmade and delicate, with flavors unique to Sicily bringing you to one of our top Italian spots for dinner in San Diego. The crowd here is younger, but still suits all styles. It is, in my opinion, the best restaurant for a group gathering or celebration in Little Italy.
FOOD RECO: Carbonara Con Piselli
Isola Pizza Bar is a contemporary pizzeria and wine bar serving Neapolitan-style wood-fired pizzas, fresh pastas and antipasto.
PIZZA RECO: Arugula con l’uovo
Nonna is the sister restaurant of Sicilian favorite, Barbusa. Homey Italian style comfort foods match the atmosphere here with two cozy patios and a charming interior.
MENU: Italian Comfort Food
ANTI PASTA RECO: Polpette or Antipasto Misto
PASTA RECO: Gnocchi al Pesto
DRINKS + LIVELY NIGHT OUT
the best restaurants in little italy for a night out with friends or a late night bite
This spot in San Diego tops the charts for a vibrant atmosphere made for a group night out. A high-class version of a sports bar. Grab your crowd and settle in for a night of craft cocktails, wood-fired pizzas, shuffleboard and watching your favorite sports teams.
MENU: New American
FOOD RECO: Shrimp Scampi Pizza
DRINK RECO: Naked at Nolita
Asian fare, a la carte style with craft cocktails, perfect spot to begin or end your evening. Kettner Exchange offers an eclectic style with modern cabanas, buzzy vibes, a superior rooftop and cozy interior.
SMALL PLATE RECOS: Spicy Shrimp, Pig Mac Bao, Spicy Tuna Crispy Rice, Duck Meatball
DRINK RECO: Dirty Verde
Craft & Commerce is a hip, New American gastropub with seasonal spirit and eats that are nothing short of outstanding. This place stays lively till the lights come on and even features a speakeasy. After you meal dip over to the host stand for an in at False Idol.
MENU: New American
FOOD RECO: Shrimp & Grits
DRINK RECO: Trouble No More