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Little Italy is more than a planter box

Italian pioneers Marco Bruschi and Pietro Lusardi, deep inside mobster Frank Bompensiero, onslaught of tiny apartments, an informal census

The cottages that line Elm Street between India and Columbia have been converted into shops and connected through an astonishing web of color. - Image by Joe Klein
The cottages that line Elm Street between India and Columbia have been converted into shops and connected through an astonishing web of color.


Sponsored
Sponsored
  • Condos Invade Little Italy

  • Ten years ago, construction was completed on the Rob Quigley-designed La Pensione Hotel, which sits at the intersection of India and Date Streets in Little Italy. The four-story hotel, recalls Quigley, was "by far the largest structure in the neighborhood at that time," and so its design presented a number of problems for the architect, who believes that buildings should have some connection to the particular character of an area, a character that is partly determined by its architectural history.
  • By Matthew Lickona, Nov. 8, 2001
  • Lusardi became known as the “pioneer Italian sheep king of San Diego County.” Film stars Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks bought Lusardi's land and planned their dream estate, “Rancho Zorro.”

    India Street and Beyond

  • Bruschi made numerous investments: mines in Baja California (he went back to Italy, in 1882, to secure funding for the enterprise), a ranch in Otay Mesa, and an interest in the Hotel L’Europe on Fifth Avenue and H Street. When the Ginocchio Company opened its store, in 1876, Bruschi managed it for many years.
  • By Jeff Smith, Aug. 17, 2000
  • Tijuana, circa 1946 (from left), Three-Fingered Frank, Frank LePorte, Diva, Mickey La Porte, Thelma Bompensiero, Mary Ann Bompensiero, Al (Frank La Porte’s bodyguard), Frank Bompensiero

    You go in alive and you come out dead

  • “Bump,” “The Bomp,” “El Bompo,” “The Bump,” “Bompy,” “The Cigar.” Nobody who knew Frank Bompensiero called him by those names. “If you were a friend or family member,” said Bompensiero’s daughter Mary Ann, “you called my father Frank or Uncle Frank. If you knew him only casually, you addressed him as Mr. Bompensiero. His mother called him figlio mio, ‘son of mine.’
  • By Judith Moore, March 25, 1999
  • From the San Diego Union, May 15, 1930. In January 1931 Bompensiero was convicted for violations of Prohibition laws. Before Bompensiero left for prison, Thelma took Mary Ann to Our Lady of the Rosary to have her baptized.

    Frank's melancholy baby

  • In San Diego, tuna had gone farther out to sea and income from fishing was down. In Little Italy, according to everyone with whom I talked, the Italians and Sicilians with Prohibition still in force made and sold even more wine than they had previously, in order to supplement their lagging income.
  • By Judith Moore, Feb. 25, 1999
  • Frank Bompensiero in foreground (c.1920). Mary Ann: “First, he unloaded fish, and then he got a job as a fisherman because that’s all they knew."

    Why did Frank Bompensiero come to San Diego?

  • By the time Bompensiero showed up in San Diego, Little Italy had been growing for 30 years. Its population increased after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, when North Beach Italian residents escaped south. Families from Porticello bought and built and rented houses and apartments from the Embarcadero up the hill to Second, and from Date to Mission Hills.
  • By Judith Moore, Feb. 18, 1999
  • Candice was evicted from the SRO Baltic Inn so it could be turned into this trendy boutique hotel.

    Tiny rooms in Little Italy

  • On a Little Italy plot where a Victorian house stood for more than a century, construction of tiny apartments is underway. The house, built in the 1890s at the corner of Union and Cedar, was demolished in February to make room for an eight-story micro-apartment building and a five-story multi-million dollar home. The apartments will be between 330 and 400 square feet.
  • By Julie Stalmer, Nov. 28, 2018
  • A News Break story deemed Little Italy an unsafe area for families, women, and solo travelers.

    In my heart I hate it — arguments with Little Italy's density flacks

  • The Little Italy I love has always been its sumptuous food and sensual people, both of which, despite the nouveau riche takeover of late, remain as present and prosperous as ever. That Little Italy is alive in Mona Lisa Italian Foods, the tang of parmesan, the toasty fume of fresh-baked sourdough, the nasal snap of balsamic vinaigrette dousing a saucer of extra-virgin olive oil.
  • By Thomas Larson, Jan. 17, 2018
  • The spiritual and cultural center of Little Italy, Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Church

    Big History of Little Italy

  • Peter Corona has written of his old neighborhood in a 398-page book called Little Italy: The Way It Was. Photos from the 1930s and 1940s fill the last 72 pages. The book came out in January 2010. San Diego’s Italian neighborhood was “different from the other Little Italys in the United States,” he writes. The Italians here “lived in a more confined geographical area, stayed mostly within that area, and rarely associated with people who were non-Italian.” And Italians moving to San Diego from other U.S. cities did not always appreciate it.
  • By Joe Deegan, May 11, 2011
  • Census

  • Friday, April 16, 2010
  • Mimmo’s Italian delicatessen on India Street, Little Italy, 12:22–1:00 p.m.
  • People: 87
  • Men: 62
  • Women: 25
  • People stopping on the sidewalk to read menu sign: 8
  • Toolbelted handyman working in the restaurant: 1
  • Men in jeans: 24
  • Men wearing ties: 4
  • Women in jeans: 19
  • By Ernie Grimm, July 7, 2010
  • Little Italy

    Little Italy

  • India at Date & Fir
  • Saturday afternoon
  • Tourists gamble on the best bet: lines at Filippi’s shout family; couples next door say “Table for two”; across the street, four-tops, two umbrellas, more strolling, much staring.
  • All menus speak Italian, but the real language is gesture. Waiting lists of the weary on the sidewalk’s double-width lean on cement benches, pizza box aloft, admire hues of remaining views, scoop gelato.
  • By Sue Greenberg, Dec. 24, 2003
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Before she came to San Diego, Judy was a social worker
The cottages that line Elm Street between India and Columbia have been converted into shops and connected through an astonishing web of color. - Image by Joe Klein
The cottages that line Elm Street between India and Columbia have been converted into shops and connected through an astonishing web of color.


Sponsored
Sponsored
  • Condos Invade Little Italy

  • Ten years ago, construction was completed on the Rob Quigley-designed La Pensione Hotel, which sits at the intersection of India and Date Streets in Little Italy. The four-story hotel, recalls Quigley, was "by far the largest structure in the neighborhood at that time," and so its design presented a number of problems for the architect, who believes that buildings should have some connection to the particular character of an area, a character that is partly determined by its architectural history.
  • By Matthew Lickona, Nov. 8, 2001
  • Lusardi became known as the “pioneer Italian sheep king of San Diego County.” Film stars Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks bought Lusardi's land and planned their dream estate, “Rancho Zorro.”

    India Street and Beyond

  • Bruschi made numerous investments: mines in Baja California (he went back to Italy, in 1882, to secure funding for the enterprise), a ranch in Otay Mesa, and an interest in the Hotel L’Europe on Fifth Avenue and H Street. When the Ginocchio Company opened its store, in 1876, Bruschi managed it for many years.
  • By Jeff Smith, Aug. 17, 2000
  • Tijuana, circa 1946 (from left), Three-Fingered Frank, Frank LePorte, Diva, Mickey La Porte, Thelma Bompensiero, Mary Ann Bompensiero, Al (Frank La Porte’s bodyguard), Frank Bompensiero

    You go in alive and you come out dead

  • “Bump,” “The Bomp,” “El Bompo,” “The Bump,” “Bompy,” “The Cigar.” Nobody who knew Frank Bompensiero called him by those names. “If you were a friend or family member,” said Bompensiero’s daughter Mary Ann, “you called my father Frank or Uncle Frank. If you knew him only casually, you addressed him as Mr. Bompensiero. His mother called him figlio mio, ‘son of mine.’
  • By Judith Moore, March 25, 1999
  • From the San Diego Union, May 15, 1930. In January 1931 Bompensiero was convicted for violations of Prohibition laws. Before Bompensiero left for prison, Thelma took Mary Ann to Our Lady of the Rosary to have her baptized.

    Frank's melancholy baby

  • In San Diego, tuna had gone farther out to sea and income from fishing was down. In Little Italy, according to everyone with whom I talked, the Italians and Sicilians with Prohibition still in force made and sold even more wine than they had previously, in order to supplement their lagging income.
  • By Judith Moore, Feb. 25, 1999
  • Frank Bompensiero in foreground (c.1920). Mary Ann: “First, he unloaded fish, and then he got a job as a fisherman because that’s all they knew."

    Why did Frank Bompensiero come to San Diego?

  • By the time Bompensiero showed up in San Diego, Little Italy had been growing for 30 years. Its population increased after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, when North Beach Italian residents escaped south. Families from Porticello bought and built and rented houses and apartments from the Embarcadero up the hill to Second, and from Date to Mission Hills.
  • By Judith Moore, Feb. 18, 1999
  • Candice was evicted from the SRO Baltic Inn so it could be turned into this trendy boutique hotel.

    Tiny rooms in Little Italy

  • On a Little Italy plot where a Victorian house stood for more than a century, construction of tiny apartments is underway. The house, built in the 1890s at the corner of Union and Cedar, was demolished in February to make room for an eight-story micro-apartment building and a five-story multi-million dollar home. The apartments will be between 330 and 400 square feet.
  • By Julie Stalmer, Nov. 28, 2018
  • A News Break story deemed Little Italy an unsafe area for families, women, and solo travelers.

    In my heart I hate it — arguments with Little Italy's density flacks

  • The Little Italy I love has always been its sumptuous food and sensual people, both of which, despite the nouveau riche takeover of late, remain as present and prosperous as ever. That Little Italy is alive in Mona Lisa Italian Foods, the tang of parmesan, the toasty fume of fresh-baked sourdough, the nasal snap of balsamic vinaigrette dousing a saucer of extra-virgin olive oil.
  • By Thomas Larson, Jan. 17, 2018
  • The spiritual and cultural center of Little Italy, Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Church

    Big History of Little Italy

  • Peter Corona has written of his old neighborhood in a 398-page book called Little Italy: The Way It Was. Photos from the 1930s and 1940s fill the last 72 pages. The book came out in January 2010. San Diego’s Italian neighborhood was “different from the other Little Italys in the United States,” he writes. The Italians here “lived in a more confined geographical area, stayed mostly within that area, and rarely associated with people who were non-Italian.” And Italians moving to San Diego from other U.S. cities did not always appreciate it.
  • By Joe Deegan, May 11, 2011
  • Census

  • Friday, April 16, 2010
  • Mimmo’s Italian delicatessen on India Street, Little Italy, 12:22–1:00 p.m.
  • People: 87
  • Men: 62
  • Women: 25
  • People stopping on the sidewalk to read menu sign: 8
  • Toolbelted handyman working in the restaurant: 1
  • Men in jeans: 24
  • Men wearing ties: 4
  • Women in jeans: 19
  • By Ernie Grimm, July 7, 2010
  • Little Italy

    Little Italy

  • India at Date & Fir
  • Saturday afternoon
  • Tourists gamble on the best bet: lines at Filippi’s shout family; couples next door say “Table for two”; across the street, four-tops, two umbrellas, more strolling, much staring.
  • All menus speak Italian, but the real language is gesture. Waiting lists of the weary on the sidewalk’s double-width lean on cement benches, pizza box aloft, admire hues of remaining views, scoop gelato.
  • By Sue Greenberg, Dec. 24, 2003
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