1532 India Street, Downtown San Diego
Two things I like as a mid-brow food writer: house-made sausages and wordplay. I found both at Little Italy’s recently opened pub, Bar One. The place is owned by real estate developer Jim Barone, you see, so the casual bar and grill gets its clever name with an extra tap of the space bar.
The sausage part comes to us through Master Chef alum Nick Nappi, who channels influence from his, Barone’s, and the neighborhood’s Italian heritage to piece together a meat-centric menu with a couple of inviting vegetarian options. One of those would be The Cannelini, a bean, basil, and ricotta sausage. The other is Nicky’s Gnocchi.
But I showed up looking for something meaty. Not the breaded and fried Chicken Parm sausage (though maybe next time). Not even the short rib Guido Poutine. I was there for the Jimmy B.
Though named for the owner, this sausage sandwich really seems a shout out to Pete’s Quality Meats, the small shop that used to be a Little Italy staple. Pete’s was especially known for its house Italian sausage with grilled peppers and onions on a roll. The neighborhood favorite closed for renovation in 2012, and like the fabled dad who “went out for cigarettes,” it never came back.
Like Pete’s, Bar One is little more than a bar facing the street, with roll-up doors to let in plenty of light and air and a few high-top tables scattered around for casual dining. There’s a short craft taplist, a bunch of TVs tuned mostly to sports, and a small lineup of spirits for cocktails. It’s basically a spot to roll in, belly up, and say hey to cute bartenders while you toss a couple back and then roll out.
In that, it succeeds. In matching up to the Pete’s sausage of my memory, the Jimmy B triggers enough nostalgia to work. The sausage has a nice bit of char, and the seasonings balance well so neither fennel nor spice take over. The caramelized peppers and onions are on point. While I’d like to see something other than Heinz yellow mustard or ketchup to dress the sandwich, that’s me being fussy in a place where fussy has no place.
I doubt that I ever put mustard on a Pete’s sausage, and in my mind it was the juiciest, most flavorful sausage you’d ever hope to meet. There’s no competing with the kind of emotional attachment that follows mythologized regional classics, so Bar One’s Jimmy B will forever have to settle for the distinction of “almost as good.”
Which is fine. Bar One’s a spot for locals to hang out, bemoan the Padres, be critical of the Chargers, and talk about what’s happening in the neighborhood and what things used to be like in the good old days...before artful chef-driven fare moved in.