A plaque says the Oceanside Historical Society deems the building on Coast Highway near downtown historically significant. It was built as a house in 1908 and first used as a restaurant by George Pernicano, one of the original minority owners of the Chargers. The Oceanside Pernicano’s was part of a chain of San Diego County Italian eateries from 1963 to 1977.
309 S. Coast Highway, Oceanside
Meanwhile the first Anita’s opened four blocks north on Coast Highway (then Hill Street) in 1973 by Francisco Alvarez. It was housed in a long since demolished building where Breakwater Brewing is now. Anita’s success allowed Alvarez to buy the shuttered Pernicano’s building for $180,000 in 1979.
Longtime locals say no other family-owned Oceanside restaurant has lasted as long as Anita’s. Junior Seau was a regular. County Supervisor Bill Horn holds business lunches there when he’s in Oceanside. It’s a favorite for Marine Corps retirement parties.
Francisco retired and turned Anita’s over to his son Frank in 1985. While Frank would not speak about specifics for this article, it was well-known that two years ago the elder Alvarez, who had remarried, decided that he had had a change in plans and wanted to sell the historic building. The younger Alvarez admits he attempted to buy the building from his dad. It is now in escrow. The asking price was $1.4-million, almost eight times what Alvarez the elder paid 38 years ago.
The younger Alvarez says he has been scrambling to try and find a new home for Anita’s and its 17 employees since Oceanside has become the hot spot for new restaurants. “We have to be out by October 30,” says Alvarez.
“At first I was pretty bummed out we had to leave. But now I think it’s a good thing we found a new place.”
That new place is on the 1700 block of South Coast Highway in the South O neighborhood. He is moving into a building that was built as Gibson’s Market in 1959. It housed the Oceanside cable TV station KOCT in the 70s and was most recently an extreme sports gym. While he admits converting the building to a first-time restaurant is costly, Anita’s square footage jumps from 3,400 to 4,500.
Alvarez says he has a “longterm” lease for his new South O spot. The new Anita’s will be opening next door to the Privateer Coal Fire Pizza which opened five years ago. A new brewery/pizza joint is being built one block away. A block away the Wrench and Rodent sushi restaurant opened two years ago, and the adjacent Whet Noodle opened last year. “South O blew up. We were lucky to find a place there.”