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Lido’s Italian Foods are too classic to be pretty

A mid-century Italian restaurant survives, despite the times

When the server places a thick white ceramic plate on the table, it’s all but spilling over with a pile of spaghetti. The noodles, and the two racquetball size meatballs astride them, are so drenched in viscous, red marinara sauce, only a dusting of parmesan crumbles lends contrast. Call in Lady and the Tramp, because we’re dealing with a textbook plate of spaghetti and meatballs here at Lido’s Italian Foods in Lemon Grove.

Place

Lido’s Italian Foods

7252 Broadway, Lemon Grove

Available every day for just $11.10, this prototypical spaghetti is one of “Lido’s famous pasta dinners,” according to the menu. That’s not to be confused with “Lido’s famous dinners,” or “Lido’s specialties,” or the pizza, because “Pizza is our specialty.” When a restaurant has been around more than six decades, as Lido’s has, the superlatives are bound to pile up.

Vintage cars occasionally accentuate Lido’s timeless architecture.

Mid-century Italian restaurants have been taking a hit in San Diego this year. In March, Paesano Italian Food of North Park shuttered after half a century, and a couple months later, Old Trieste Restaurant in Bay Park did the same. But Lido’s seems to be doing okay. Business is brisk on a Saturday night. The dining room is full, so we’re seated at a booth in the bar area, where televised sports play and simple cocktails poured for those who don’t want chianti.

At Lido’s Italian, a large dining room recalls another era.

You can tell the restaurant is old school, not due to the wood booths or leaded glass fixtures, but because its dishes don’t put a lot of effort into looking good on camera. My chicken a la Florentine — one of those specialties the menu talks about — is served in roughly chopped hunks on a plate bare except for a shallow yellow pool of lemon and herb broth. It tastes superb, a half rotisserie chicken at its $13.45 best. It’s just embarrassing to take out my camera to photograph what can only look like vivisected bird carcass on a plate. Nobody will click like for that.

A stained glass artwork in Lido’s Italian, in Lemon Grove

The spaghetti will do. And the architecture. The mid-century appeal begins when you drive up to the established-in-1955 restaurant and spy the quasi art deco fin on its façade, looking vaguely like a ship’s prow. The place looks like legit Americana, enough a Lemon Grove institution that making the food more photogenic for social media purposes might ruin the experience people have been enjoying as return guests for generations. So the place carries on with its straight-out-of-a time-capsule ways. Which makes me like Lido’s a little better. Occasionally it’s nice to leave the camera at home.

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Comments
2

As a former Chicagoan and pizza lover, Lidos has the. best. pizza. in San Diego. Enjoy it while you can before this place closes !

Sept. 10, 2019

One reason they have survived is they own the dirt. No landlord to raise their rent.

Sept. 11, 2019

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A seminal example of spaghetti and meatballs, mid-century U.S.
A seminal example of spaghetti and meatballs, mid-century U.S.

When the server places a thick white ceramic plate on the table, it’s all but spilling over with a pile of spaghetti. The noodles, and the two racquetball size meatballs astride them, are so drenched in viscous, red marinara sauce, only a dusting of parmesan crumbles lends contrast. Call in Lady and the Tramp, because we’re dealing with a textbook plate of spaghetti and meatballs here at Lido’s Italian Foods in Lemon Grove.

Place

Lido’s Italian Foods

7252 Broadway, Lemon Grove

Available every day for just $11.10, this prototypical spaghetti is one of “Lido’s famous pasta dinners,” according to the menu. That’s not to be confused with “Lido’s famous dinners,” or “Lido’s specialties,” or the pizza, because “Pizza is our specialty.” When a restaurant has been around more than six decades, as Lido’s has, the superlatives are bound to pile up.

Vintage cars occasionally accentuate Lido’s timeless architecture.

Mid-century Italian restaurants have been taking a hit in San Diego this year. In March, Paesano Italian Food of North Park shuttered after half a century, and a couple months later, Old Trieste Restaurant in Bay Park did the same. But Lido’s seems to be doing okay. Business is brisk on a Saturday night. The dining room is full, so we’re seated at a booth in the bar area, where televised sports play and simple cocktails poured for those who don’t want chianti.

At Lido’s Italian, a large dining room recalls another era.

You can tell the restaurant is old school, not due to the wood booths or leaded glass fixtures, but because its dishes don’t put a lot of effort into looking good on camera. My chicken a la Florentine — one of those specialties the menu talks about — is served in roughly chopped hunks on a plate bare except for a shallow yellow pool of lemon and herb broth. It tastes superb, a half rotisserie chicken at its $13.45 best. It’s just embarrassing to take out my camera to photograph what can only look like vivisected bird carcass on a plate. Nobody will click like for that.

A stained glass artwork in Lido’s Italian, in Lemon Grove

The spaghetti will do. And the architecture. The mid-century appeal begins when you drive up to the established-in-1955 restaurant and spy the quasi art deco fin on its façade, looking vaguely like a ship’s prow. The place looks like legit Americana, enough a Lemon Grove institution that making the food more photogenic for social media purposes might ruin the experience people have been enjoying as return guests for generations. So the place carries on with its straight-out-of-a time-capsule ways. Which makes me like Lido’s a little better. Occasionally it’s nice to leave the camera at home.

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Comments
2

As a former Chicagoan and pizza lover, Lidos has the. best. pizza. in San Diego. Enjoy it while you can before this place closes !

Sept. 10, 2019

One reason they have survived is they own the dirt. No landlord to raise their rent.

Sept. 11, 2019

Sign in to comment

Sign in

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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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