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Feast! Little Italy-Old Town

Middletown's best restaurants

Inventive small dishes at Bracero Cocina de Raiz
Inventive small dishes at Bracero Cocina de Raiz


These days Little Italy offers some of the best food in town, or at least the most photographed. The neighborhood keeps serving up hits, almost eclipsing the tried-and-true eateries that sit between its shiny new trendsetting hotspots and Old Town.

Meanwhile, spacious opportunities have made Liberty Station the city's fastest growing dining destination.

Place

Romesco Mexiterranean Cocina

1490 Kettner Boulevard, San Diego

Bracero Cocina de Raiz

Javier Plascencia made Tijuana a culinary destination promoting Baja Med cuisine. Little Italy’s sidewalks were already stacked deep with trendspotting foodies when he opened Bracero in July, but it leapt immediately to the top of the hot list, a concrete and steel triumph of Mexican fusion’s success. Inventive crudo and small dishes include oyster topped by beef tartare and a huitlacoche (corn smut) tamal. Tantalizing lamb and pork entrées slow roast in a custom built caja china. It’s enough to make tacos sound boring. Until you try Bracero’s tacos. These fantastic creations are instantly in contention for the city’s best. —Ian Anderson

Place

Kettner Exchange

2001 Kettner Boulevard, San Diego

Kettner Exchange

Kettner Exchange continues to deliver in Little Italy, where they are having a bit of a new restaurant frenzy. Small plates, perfect for sharing, are my usual choice. Luxurious Hudson Valley Foie Gras sits in a nest of Brussels sprout leaves under frizzled shallots; crisp buttered toasts and garnet-hued pluots offer texture and tangy-sweet balance. Cauliflower Tempura is well executed and stays crisp under drizzles of tangy blue cheese and beurre rouge. Fried Chicken is a popular choice, and it’s easy to see why. The crust is deeply caramelized and flavorful, the chicken is juicy and tender, the spicy aioli adds a creamy, piquant counterpoint. —Mary Beth Abate

Place

Civico 1845

1845 India Street, San Diego

Civico 1845

This is a fantastic place for vegans and non-vegans alike. The kitchen serves up a flavorful steak cooked in olive oil and lemon, but non-meat eaters will enjoy the vegan ravioli with pink vodka sauce (there’s just enough fake cheese to add flavor but not enough to remind it’s not really cheese). The Tri Colori salad with arugula, cherry tomatoes, and fennel tastes like the veggies were harvested that day. The wine list is substantial and food friendly. Save room for dessert: Even meat eaters will enjoy the vegan tiramisu —Patrick Henderson

Place

Rubicon Deli

3715 India Street, San Diego

Rubicon Deli

With locations in Middletown, Mission Beach, and one on the way in La Jolla, Rubicon has two decades in the business of making damn good sandwiches. They offer a variety of freshly baked breads, house-cooked meats, and farm-fresh produce. Oh, and the ’wiches are gigantic. The Dapper Dipper is a house celebrity, spotlighting slow-roasted Harris Ranch tri-tip, crispy onion, Swiss cheese, horseradish, and au jus for the soak. On the fresh end, the Whales Veg places pesto goat cheese beside avocado, cucumber, tomato, carrot, alfalfa sprouts, spring greens, Dijon, and balsamic vinaigrette. —Chad Deal

Place

Isola Pizza Bar

1526 India Street, San Diego

Isola Pizza Bar

I love to pull up a seat with my favorite person on the patio at Isola and watch all the dogs parading by as their owners walk them to and fro. First, I order a bottle of Vino Nobile de Montepulciano (a recent version here was fairly priced at $49) and my favorite pizza on the menu, the Salamino Piccante ($16), with spicy salami and fresh basil. Taste the difference of Doppio Zero flour dough that has been hand-tossed and left to rise for two days before it’s smothered with the toppings of your choice, and thrown into a wood-burning oven that was imported from Napoli. —Barbarella Fokos

Place

Sushi Tadokoro

2244 San Diego Avenue, San Diego

Aji at Sushi Tadokoro

Sushi Tadokoro

Easily my first choice when it comes to sushi in San Diego. Perfect, bite-sized Edomae style sushi is created by Take-san in this little but popular shop on the outskirts of Old Town. Make reservations and request a seat at the bar. Put yourself in the hands of Take-san, who will feed you whatever is fresh and in season. Some of the best Ankimo, monkfish liver, is to be found here. If you keep an open mind and stomach, you’ll be able to sample expertly prepared, Aji (Spanish mackerel), Hobo (robin-fish), Mebachi-zuke (marinated big eye tuna), Ikura, and even Shirako (cod milt). —Kirk K

Place

Harbor Breakfast

1502 India Street, San Diego

Harbor Breakfast

Two reasons I love Harbor Breakfast: it looks like the kind of joint a tugboat skipper would hang out at, and their Hangtown Fry is awesome. Okay, expensive at $15, but still an authentic hark back to Gold Rush days. This is the dish California gold miners would order after they’d struck it rich. Combo of crunchy-coated oysters, eggs, bacon, green onions, King Oyster mushrooms, plus thyme-soaked rough toast, and interesting fruit like persimmons. Tons of other breakfast-lunch choices. Most basic item, two eggs with toast, home fries/hash browns or fruit, costs $8. —Ed Bedford

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Inventive small dishes at Bracero Cocina de Raiz
Inventive small dishes at Bracero Cocina de Raiz


These days Little Italy offers some of the best food in town, or at least the most photographed. The neighborhood keeps serving up hits, almost eclipsing the tried-and-true eateries that sit between its shiny new trendsetting hotspots and Old Town.

Meanwhile, spacious opportunities have made Liberty Station the city's fastest growing dining destination.

Place

Romesco Mexiterranean Cocina

1490 Kettner Boulevard, San Diego

Bracero Cocina de Raiz

Javier Plascencia made Tijuana a culinary destination promoting Baja Med cuisine. Little Italy’s sidewalks were already stacked deep with trendspotting foodies when he opened Bracero in July, but it leapt immediately to the top of the hot list, a concrete and steel triumph of Mexican fusion’s success. Inventive crudo and small dishes include oyster topped by beef tartare and a huitlacoche (corn smut) tamal. Tantalizing lamb and pork entrées slow roast in a custom built caja china. It’s enough to make tacos sound boring. Until you try Bracero’s tacos. These fantastic creations are instantly in contention for the city’s best. —Ian Anderson

Place

Kettner Exchange

2001 Kettner Boulevard, San Diego

Kettner Exchange

Kettner Exchange continues to deliver in Little Italy, where they are having a bit of a new restaurant frenzy. Small plates, perfect for sharing, are my usual choice. Luxurious Hudson Valley Foie Gras sits in a nest of Brussels sprout leaves under frizzled shallots; crisp buttered toasts and garnet-hued pluots offer texture and tangy-sweet balance. Cauliflower Tempura is well executed and stays crisp under drizzles of tangy blue cheese and beurre rouge. Fried Chicken is a popular choice, and it’s easy to see why. The crust is deeply caramelized and flavorful, the chicken is juicy and tender, the spicy aioli adds a creamy, piquant counterpoint. —Mary Beth Abate

Place

Civico 1845

1845 India Street, San Diego

Civico 1845

This is a fantastic place for vegans and non-vegans alike. The kitchen serves up a flavorful steak cooked in olive oil and lemon, but non-meat eaters will enjoy the vegan ravioli with pink vodka sauce (there’s just enough fake cheese to add flavor but not enough to remind it’s not really cheese). The Tri Colori salad with arugula, cherry tomatoes, and fennel tastes like the veggies were harvested that day. The wine list is substantial and food friendly. Save room for dessert: Even meat eaters will enjoy the vegan tiramisu —Patrick Henderson

Place

Rubicon Deli

3715 India Street, San Diego

Rubicon Deli

With locations in Middletown, Mission Beach, and one on the way in La Jolla, Rubicon has two decades in the business of making damn good sandwiches. They offer a variety of freshly baked breads, house-cooked meats, and farm-fresh produce. Oh, and the ’wiches are gigantic. The Dapper Dipper is a house celebrity, spotlighting slow-roasted Harris Ranch tri-tip, crispy onion, Swiss cheese, horseradish, and au jus for the soak. On the fresh end, the Whales Veg places pesto goat cheese beside avocado, cucumber, tomato, carrot, alfalfa sprouts, spring greens, Dijon, and balsamic vinaigrette. —Chad Deal

Place

Isola Pizza Bar

1526 India Street, San Diego

Isola Pizza Bar

I love to pull up a seat with my favorite person on the patio at Isola and watch all the dogs parading by as their owners walk them to and fro. First, I order a bottle of Vino Nobile de Montepulciano (a recent version here was fairly priced at $49) and my favorite pizza on the menu, the Salamino Piccante ($16), with spicy salami and fresh basil. Taste the difference of Doppio Zero flour dough that has been hand-tossed and left to rise for two days before it’s smothered with the toppings of your choice, and thrown into a wood-burning oven that was imported from Napoli. —Barbarella Fokos

Place

Sushi Tadokoro

2244 San Diego Avenue, San Diego

Aji at Sushi Tadokoro

Sushi Tadokoro

Easily my first choice when it comes to sushi in San Diego. Perfect, bite-sized Edomae style sushi is created by Take-san in this little but popular shop on the outskirts of Old Town. Make reservations and request a seat at the bar. Put yourself in the hands of Take-san, who will feed you whatever is fresh and in season. Some of the best Ankimo, monkfish liver, is to be found here. If you keep an open mind and stomach, you’ll be able to sample expertly prepared, Aji (Spanish mackerel), Hobo (robin-fish), Mebachi-zuke (marinated big eye tuna), Ikura, and even Shirako (cod milt). —Kirk K

Place

Harbor Breakfast

1502 India Street, San Diego

Harbor Breakfast

Two reasons I love Harbor Breakfast: it looks like the kind of joint a tugboat skipper would hang out at, and their Hangtown Fry is awesome. Okay, expensive at $15, but still an authentic hark back to Gold Rush days. This is the dish California gold miners would order after they’d struck it rich. Combo of crunchy-coated oysters, eggs, bacon, green onions, King Oyster mushrooms, plus thyme-soaked rough toast, and interesting fruit like persimmons. Tons of other breakfast-lunch choices. Most basic item, two eggs with toast, home fries/hash browns or fruit, costs $8. —Ed Bedford

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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