Little Italy Stories

Sushi hot spot, sushi night spot

Everything and everyone looks terrific

India Street is typically thronged on a Saturday night, its city best restaurant scene luring every manner of date night, birthday celebration, and — is that a bachelorette party? I’m forced to wonder, what is ...

An unexpected fusion

Chopsticks in a Mexican restaurant

There are plenty of items I expect to find on a Mexican restaurant menu, but here’s one that I don’t: fried rice. I’m at King and Queen Cantina, the upscale casual restaurant that took over ...

Vegans eat breakfast too

An eggless breakfast is one thing, but an eggless quiche?

The best part of a cinnamon roll is the gooey center portion, shielded just enough by the outer rolls that it doesn’t quite bake through, so instead of crusting up, it remains entirely soft and ...

Pizza crust doesn't get any thinner

And this pie named after a movie villain is killer

Catching up for a quick lunch with a friend, I found myself back at the Little Italy Food Hall, scanning its several restaurant counters for something we can agree on. As often happens in such ...

Oh good, more Italian!

Unexpected hospitality experience in Nolita

Attempts to make food halls viable in San Diego have come and gone over the past five years, and when I heard about Nolita Hall opening recently at the north end of Little Italy, I ...

A strong stirred direct cocktail

“But the lavender softens it around the edges.”

If your tongue is quiet enough, it can taste the whisper of Japanese whisky folded gently into the other spirits that Herb & Wood’s cocktail curator Meghan Balser puts into her Vodka & Lavender. “I ...

Stop eating poke bowls

Choose donburi instead, at the new Little Italy Food Hall

After years of construction, Little Italy’s pedestrian-friendly Piazza Della Famiglia has opened, and the ten-thousand square foot, Euro-styled plaza has proven an ideal venue for the neighborhood’s Saturday farmers market. When I showed up on ...

Nighttime spreads its cloak

Shibuya Nights is a virtuoso of distilled contradictions

The Cloak & Petal’s bar manager Faisal Asseri explains that the name for Little Italy’s Japanese-inspired restaurant blends opposites to form a new whole. “Cloak” communicates mystery and intrigue, and “Petal” is a rough English ...

As I Lay Dying show at Soma sells out in four minutes

Not everyone forgives Tim Lambesis

Whether the original members of As I Lay Dying should or should not get back together with Tim Lambesis is now only a philosophical question. The five internationally famous metalcore bandmates are in fact reuniting ...

It's the blankets (tartines, cupcakes) at Frost Me Café and Bakery

Piazza della famiglia finally open in Little Italy

It’s the free blankets. A whole wicker basket filled with them, all rolled up. Mexican blankets, waiting for patio customers to grab ‘em and warm themselves up. April 16th, opening day, on the patio of ...

Chicken nuggets for adults

Add them to salad to feel healthy

The first thing we learn about the lonely film character Dominique Bretodeau, of the 2001 French cinema masterpiece, Amelie, is that every Tuesday, he roasts and carves a whole chicken for himself. Before he even ...

People are dirty even when they're clean

The church serves the unclean, untouristy souls that Christ said He came to save

It’s Saturday morning and I’m helping my wife and daughters clean Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Little Italy. It would be purest folly for the church to hire cleaners when they can instead ...

Local fish and the people who catch them

Ironside's Dockside Dinner

While snappy terms such as "farm to table" have gone from trendy to passé due to misappropriation and overuse, the locovore movement remains relevant. Personally, I find comfort in the simplicity of knowing where my ...

Little Italy's exotic happy hour

Morning suit and top hat in Mexican cantina

"Buona sera, signore,” I say. “Buona sera, buona sera,” says Nick Pecoraro from his gold-encrusted porch. I’ve stopped by to pay my respects to Little Italy’s unofficial ambassador. This is the time of night when ...

Little Italy’s big — massive redevelopment

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 ...

Hops and avocados meet ice cream

All sorts of specialty flavors — even vegan — at Salt & Straw

Portland's hippest ice cream shop has made its way to San Diego. Salt & Straw recently opened a shop in Little Italy, and as it's done in previous expansions to San Francisco and Los Angeles, ...

Crudo, clam chowder, and salmon candy

Euro seafood off I-5

I'm never sure how many San Diegans have discovered Fifty Seven Degrees. The huge wine bar and art gallery offers tasty wine and beer, and enough space that I've never failed to find an open ...

Really want pork

Japanese comfort food on Fir Street

Huh. Row of guys’ butts bulging out onto the sidewalk, right where Fir crosses Kettner. This has to be the first place I’ve seen where people actually sit up to a bar on the street, ...

Two nine-story buildings for Little Italy

“Cities like new hotels.”

The hotel building boom in San Diego continues unabated. Two new hotel projects at a Little Italy site are now under review by Civic San Diego. Most of the structures on the property surrounded by ...

Kettner's grape pushback

A tangy English cow cheese, an Italian goat cheese, a Spanish “grassy” goat cheese, and a Manchego Spanish sheep cheese

"Stop and smell the rosé,” says the sidewalk sign. Huh. Are we seeing the start of a wine pushback, after all these glorious beer years? This is happening quite a ways up Kettner, Little Italy’s ...

Meatballs on Kettner

Bar Bodega does it the Spanish way

In Japan, you'd call this an izakaya. In Spain, a bodega. Both of them are basically kinds of after-work snack and drink pubs. Mainly sake in izakayas (you pronounce it "i-ZAK-aya," as in "saké place"), ...

Harpooned swordfish at India Street's Ironside

Expense account guy spikes his drinks

‘This is how you make a decent cocktail,” says Doug. He sneaks out a nubbly silver pocket flask, opens it, then slides his glass of whiskey sour under the counter and starts secretly pouring bourbon ...

I brake for pizza e birra

House-made mozzarella and dough make Italophile spot worth slowing down for

I drive past it often — whenever I take the Washington Street exit from I-5 north to go to Mission Hills. But Il Centro Pizza e Birra always goes by in a blur. Problem is, ...

"Let's have them do it in La Jolla next year...."

Rock 'n' Roll Marathon nay-sayers

“I didn’t miss church [because] I’m the choir director – so it’s essential that I get there,” said Nina Gilbert. Gilbert was one of the prepared ones for the detours and roadblocks brought about by ...

Seaweed burritos

Pokirrito is more an upscale sub shop than a sushi bar

Locals love both Mexican food and Asian cuisine, so why not combine them? That is the idea behind Pokirrito, a restaurant that gained a reputation for its sushi burritos. If you’re not a foodie purist ...

Is this the end of Harbor Music Hall?

“The street traffic is louder than our saxophone player."

San Diego jazz fans might be on the verge of losing another music venue now that Harbor Music Hall (1506 India Street) has been threatened with the potential loss of their beer-and-wine license due to ...

Eat here, live longer

The idea of fig, gruyere, and sweet onion gets me.

"Shiny beans,” says Dave. “Sure sign.” He’s talking coffee beans. And he should know. He’s managing this new coffee place-café here kitty-corner to the Firehouse museum at Cedar and Columbia in Little Italy. “Uh, sure ...

Get control of the spice at Aaharn Thai

Street nuts

Nuts make you talk. Nuts make you cry. I’m chewing Thai nuts while Phon, Cheri, Lynn, and I talk on about the king of Thailand. King Bhumibol Adulyadej. He died six months ago, but for ...

Service stands out at Herb & Wood

A dining spot for the special occasion

After one of the hype-iest openings in recent history, Herb & Wood remained for many months a place I was afraid to visit, lest it disappoint me the way a few other big-money, big-hype restaurants ...

Bob Lights

"Underhero" of the San Diego music scene asks for help and gets it

“It started as a joke,” says veteran rock jock Mike Halloran about the fundraising concert he’s spearheading for a fellow veteran of the local music scene. “I announced on Facebook that Chris Cantore, Steven Woods, ...

Bird Rock Coffee merges with Kansas company, Lofty Coffee opens in Little Italy

February's coffee news

Points of origin In early February, San Diego’s award-winning Bird Rock Coffee Roasters announced a merger with the Topeka, Kansas, business PT’s Coffee Roasting Co. While each brand will retain its own identity, PT’s cofounder ...

Italian gets interesting

Get your pasta on — with or without cheese

Over the past few years, I've happily jumped on the pork belly trend, the game meat trend, cured and smoked meats, bone marrow, and pretty much anything confit. Creative chefs embracing unusual cuts and oleogustus ...

Mexican food in Little Italy — why not?

Brunch at Bracero Cocina de Raíz is worth the drive from anywhere

I felt like checking out Little Italy on a sleepy Sunday morning in January, so I drove the distance from North County to meet my cousin for brunch at Bracero Cocina de Raíz, a restaurant ...

Saturday night in San Diego

The chance for local musicians to get TV face time just got better

Tonight in San Diego, a Tonight Show-type variety show that has appeared on various cable outlets over its two-year history, has just been picked up by CW6, which will air it Saturdays at 11 p.m. ...

New Zealand in Little Italy, Spain in the Gaslamp

Overseas outposts

Water. Adam’s Ale. Hobo cocktail. Sky juice. Call it whatever, it’s one of the few things around that’s still actually free. And — hey hey! — today, water made it possible for me to finagle ...

Not just a gas station under the flight path

Beer and wine sales will be opposed by Little Italy group

While 2499 Pacific Highway in the Little Italy neighborhood is currently an empty lot with a former car-rental office building, it could become a Valero service station. Civic San Diego has started the approval process ...

The Bar One sausage saps Ed's resistance

“That one is really good,” says Alex. “I like the spicy.”

We’re walking, walking — hold it! Swear this used to be a hair salon. But now we’re looking at a kind of Italian bar that spills out onto the sidewalk. I try to figure out ...

Sausage nostalgia in Little Italy

Bar One has to settle for “almost as good”

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 ...

A top chef opened a lunch counter

Some have waited for an elevated tuna melt for a lifetime

When Brian Malarkey opened Herb & Wood this summer, its wood-fired cuisine and killer ingredients instantly put it on the shortlist of restaurants I want to dine at on special occasions. But I can’t afford ...

All the hip foods in one place

And that place is Little Italy

If you were to chart the key terms used by San Diego food writers in 2016, top of the list would be ramen, poke, sushi burrito, and Little Italy. Enter Rakiraki. The ramen (and ramen ...

Everything but the kitchen sink from Stanley Clarke

Jazz-fusion bassist brings down the house at Music Box

Jazz-fusion bass man Stanley Clarke, fronting a well-oiled band that included a second bassist (Cameroonian Armand Sabal-Lecco), Ruslan Sirota and Lincoln Cleary on keyboards, and 21-year-old drum prodigy Mike Mitchell, delivered an incendiary set to ...

Cloudy, juicy, with a chance of bitterness

San Diego brewers craft Vermont's IPA style

West Coast IPAs famously established San Diego breweries as major players in the American — and eventually global — craft-beer scene. But lately another regional IPA style has emerged as the contemporary favorite. Some call ...

Demolition of historic Little Italy house likely

“Yes, sigh; anything ‘affordable’ you can waive almost anything.”

Architect/developer Jonathan Segal has applied to Civic San Diego to construct a 36-unit, 87-foot-tall, eight-story, all-studio apartment complex at a presumed historic site, at 320 W. Cedar Street in Little Italy. It would also include ...

Civic San Diego sued by Little Italy restaurant

Owners of Mexican restaurant claim inept handling of noise complaints

The owner of a Little Italy Mexican restaurant and lounge, Entrada Taqueria, says the city-owned and privately run nonprofit Civic San Diego cost him $2 million in damages by closing his restaurant down over noise ...

Like the real chitlin

“They’re pasta, not actual pork rinds,” Amy warns. But, three bucks, so I get them anyway.

It’s Winona! Winona Ryder! You would swear. Straight out of The Age of Innocence. Those eyes, that quizzical smile. Okay, Winona turns out to be Amy. She’s helping run the bar of this terrazza in ...

Staycation chronicles

Civico 1845 is good for vegetarians and carnivores alike

My in-laws took my kids to Florida for a week, so my wife and I decided to do a “staycation” of sorts by eating out every night while they were gone. Some restaurants we had ...

Buckethead — mad scientist of electric guitar

Worshippers wore buckets on their heads, played along on air guitars

Without a live band, Buckethead kept the packed Music Box of hardcore fans salivating over his axe handling. A souped-up guitar capable of making you breakfast and doing the dishes, buzzed, ripped, soared, and dominated ...

Fusion nostalgia with Al Di Meola

...and there's no better band leader to get you there

Jazz-rock guitarist Al Di Meola brought his Romantic Warrior Meets Elegant Gypsy Tour to the Music Box for a standing-room-only exercise in fusion nostalgia that leaned heavily on crowd favorites. Di Meola’s concept has always ...

From Europe to Elysium

Al Di Meola talks fusion music and its classical ties

From the streets of Jersey City came guitarist Al Di Meola, who toiled in the fusion group Return to Forever, at age 20, and eventually went solo, combining rock, jazz, classical, and electronic approaches. He ...

Sidewalk casualty vs. the City vs. Little Italy

Maintenance assessment district said not to have done its job

On May 24, city-council members will consider whether to end a yearlong legal fight over a broken sidewalk in Little Italy that caused a woman to fall and break both of her ankles. According to ...

O, sue me

O-Town pop star comes home to San Diego

A lot of musicians feel they have to leave San Diego in order to “make it.” Jacob Underwood felt he made it when he was able to move back. “I live in the Gaslamp, but ...

Resurrect the bird

The Crack Shack is all things chicken and egg

For decades, chicken has gotten a bad rap. Looked down upon by sophisticated palates, this lean and mild meat is routinely dismissed as the vodka of proteins. Growing up, all of the chicken that I ...

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