Guide to The Best Restaurants in San Diego’s Little Italy Neighborhood
In this guide, we share the best restaurants in San Diego’s Little Italy Neighborhood for every occasion – whether you want to grab a quick coffee and a pastry, or you want the best restaurant for a hot date night.
San Diego has so many great neighborhoods to find something to eat, but when it comes to picking a single neighborhood that has it all, we think Little Italy is the best.
And it continues to get better and better.
The neighborhood is always evolving, adding new reasons to visit it regularly. And it also seems to be continuously expanding, as great new restaurants and shops are increasingly popping up on the very north end of the neighborhood that used to be pretty quiet.
It has amazing Italian food, of course, but the diversity of high-quality bars and restaurants is unmatched by any other neighborhood in San Diego, as you’ll see in our list.
We love it, and we know you will, too!
Italians take their coffee seriously, so you’d expect to find many options to find good coffee in Little Italy, and you’d be right!
You can get good coffee at almost all of the Italian restaurants in the neighborhood, but here are the best restaurants in San Diego’s Little Italy to get great coffee.
444 W. Cedar St.
As a coffee roaster, Lofty Coffee Co.‘s goal is to source the most delicious coffee available from around the world. They fill their shelves with coffees that showcase the flavor of their origin which allows us to see the variety that the coffee world has to offer. And they have a big, amazing outdoor patio to enjoy your coffee while people-watching.
750 W Fir St #105
Influx Cafe offers locally-roasted, organic espresso and coffee, as well as handcrafted bread for sandwiches and baked goods made fresh daily. If you are looking for the feel of a real Italian Café right on India Street, this is it.
1602 State Street
Pappalecco aims to deliver the most Authentic Italian Café Experience outside of Italy. Coffee, panini, and gelato are served in charming digs or on the outdoor patio. It sits a block or two off of India Street, which makes it feel a little less touristy and local – which we love.
Frost Me Cafe & Bakery
555 West Date Street Suite A
Frost Me is a small batch bakery producing pastries, desserts, and light fare from scratch while serving amazing coffee, wine, and beer. Frost Me was honored to compete on Food Network’s Cupcake Wars Season 7 and 9 taking home the championship for the Breeder’s Cup episode. It’s location right on Piazza della Famiglia makes it the perfect stop for great coffee and people-watching.
James Coffee Co
2355 India Street
James Coffee Co. is our go-to coffee shop on the far north side of Little Italy. It’s a bit out of the hustle and bustle and much easier to find parking than most of Little Italy. They offer a revolving assortment of distinctive single-origin beans as well as exclusive James Coffee crafted blends.
The search for the best brunch in San Diego is a never-ending adventure for San Diego brunch lovers – there are so many amazing options, and new ones opening every day.
But where do you go if you want a tasty, simple breakfast that doesn’t require a two-hour commitment and 2,500 calories in a single meal?!
The following are our picks for the best restaurants in San Diego’s Little Italy to get breakfast (NOTE: we have a different list for brunch below!).
1680 India St
Parakeet Café serves up health-conscious food, coffee, tea, and freshly baked goods in San Diego’s Little Italy neighborhood. The café welcomes the health-conscious, non-dieters, vegans, vegetarian, paleo, keto, and gluten-free eaters to gather ‘round their table and enjoy a delicious meal made with ingredients you can trust. You can’t do better for a tasty, healthy breakfast.
1502 India St
Harbor Breakfast is the most traditional breakfast diner you’ll find in San Diego’s Little Italy, and it sits right on India Street. They offer casual dining and a cheerful ambiance that will instantly make you feel right at home. If you’re looking for old-fashioned hospitality while enjoying your favorite comfort food, this is the perfect place for you.
Frost Me Cafe & Bakery
555 W Date St.
One of our favorite places for coffee in Little Italy, Frost Me also serves a really good breakfast! The stylish cafe & bakery overlooking the Piazza della Famiglia offers pastries & savory plates, with indoor and outdoor seating.
San Diego takes brunch very seriously, and brunch in Little Italy is no different! You can find a brunch to satisfy every craving in this neighborhood!
Here are our picks for the best restaurants in San Diego’s Little Italy neighborhood for a yummy brunch – whether you want something a bit on the healthier side or an over-the-top brunch with cocktails that will feel more like a continuation of the prior night’s festivities.
2305 India St
Nolita Hall is one of our favorite places in San Diego to grab a bite or brunch and drink with friends; it has an environment that feels very friendly and ‘neighborhoody’, but the food and drinks are fantastic. The pandemic created the opportunity to expand their outdoor seating, which is wonderful. Don’t miss their brunch staple, Avocado Smorrebrod with toasted pumpernickel, brioche, avocado smash, soft boiled egg, arugula, and pickled red onion.
Queenstown Public House
1557 Columbia St
Queenstown Public House is a quaint and whimsical (they turn into a giant gingerbread house during the holidays!) restaurant specializing in New Zealand-inspired dishes and offerings. When brunching, their Tomato Soup with a grilled cheese sammie is sure to hit the spot on a chilly day or if you want to satisfy your comfort food cravings.
2401 Kettner Blvd. Suite B
Wolfie’s Carousel is a truly unique restaurant and bar that has quickly become well-known for its whimsical design, beautiful cocktails, and people-watching. But the food is not to be overlooked! Head to Wolfie’s for a more refined brunch featuring French dishes from Chef Rez Guzman.
Herb & Wood
2210 Kettner Blvd
Having brunch at Herb & Wood feels like you’ve left San Diego and found yourself in France or Italy…but with a nice, casual California twist. The food and overall experience is more refined than most San Diego brunch experiences, and we love it for that. Chef Brian Malarkey, co-chef and partner, Shane McIntyre, and executive pastry chef Adrian Mendoza crafted a menu that showcases fun and imaginative twists on brunch classics.
550 W Date St
Morning Glory is THE brunch hotspot in Little Italy, and maybe even all of San Diego. A Consortium Holdings project that opened in 2019, it’s still pretty darn difficult to get in there anytime without an hour wait – so be patient! But if you’re looking for an over-the-top brunch experience that will produce Instagrammable moments, this is one worth waiting for!
550 W Date St Suite #A
Farmer’s Table serves locally sourced, organic, farm-to-table ingredients with one of the most enviable locations in all of Little Italy – the corner of India Street and Piazza della Famiglia. It’s got a great streetside bar front and outside seating that provides quite possibly the best people-watching in Little Italy. Don’t forget to try their famous Barnyard Bloody Mary – it’s a meal in itself!
1980 Kettner Blvd.
Cafe Gratitude is one of the most famous spots in San Diego for their focus on serving clean, plant-based foods – that are also really damn tasty! The restaurant supports local farmers, sustainable agriculture and environmentally friendly products, in addition to making some mind-blowing vegan eats. Save room for dessert, the house-made pies, cookies, and cakes are spectacular.
Whether you want an Italian sub on the run, a beer with friends in the sun, or a sit-down power lunch, you’ll find it in Little Italy.
Here are our picks for the best restaurants in San Diego’s Little Italy neighborhood for lunch.
The Crack Shack
2266 Kettner Boulevard
For a casual lunch, Crack Shack is one of our absolute favorites. The Little Italy location is all outdoor seating, making it perfectly ‘San Diego’. In addition to the amazing chicken & egg dishes, you’ll find some great salads and sandwiches, a full bar, and even a bocce court. Their locally-raised, free-living chicken are raised without a care or an antibiotic in them – just as nature intended.
Mona Lisa Italian Foods
2061 India Street
Mona Lisa Italian Foods was opened in San Diego in 1956 by Stefano Brunetto, and it’s still operated by family today. That officially makes it an ‘institution’! It’s earned that title for all kinds of reasons, but we love Mona Lisa most for their deli sandwiches, which you’ll see people running in and out to get at lunchtime every day of the week. They are damn good!
1654 India St
If an ocean-based bounty is what you’re craving for lunch, try Ironside‘s Mediterranean Mussels, steamed in white wine with garlic, shallots, Calabrian chilies and lime, topped with radish sprouts, served with a grilled slice of garlic-smothered-sourdough, and Grilled Fish, served in a bath of caper-lemon-butter sauce with roasted sunchokes and cipollini onions. A perfect spot for a business power lunch that isn’t stuffy.
1845 India St
Civico 1845 offers a new generation of Italian cuisine – fresh, light, and authentic – which makes it a great lunch option. And since its located in the heart of Little Italy, it’s the perfect spot to people-watch while you eat.
There is no better neighborhood to have dinner with friends, or a hot date, than Little Italy. The neighborhood really comes to life when the sun goes down!
There are countless good spots to go for dinner, but if we have to pick, these are the best restaurants in San Diego’s Little Italy neighborhood for dinner right now (check back often – we’ll keep this guide up-to-date!).
Born & Raised
1909 India St
We think Born & Raised is consistently one of the top few restaurants in San Diego – they get everything right. Try to get a table upstairs so you can enjoy the open-air views of Little Italy while you eat. And save plenty of room when you go – you’ll want to try everything from the charcuterie board to dry-aged steak to the cheesecake – and a few cocktails to wash it down. That’s the way we do it, anyway!
1654 India St
Little Italy was built by the fishing industry, and Ironside is a celebration of that heritage. Located in a historic auction house on India Street that’s been renovated with quirky, nautical design accents, Ironside serves some of the freshest seafood you’ll ever have. Insider tip: try the chowder fries!
Cloak & Petal
1953 India St
Cloak & Petal‘s Japanese underground theme, Biggy Small portraits, and blooming cherry blossom tree make it a standout in Little Italy! The restaurant specializes in Japanese tapas & craft cocktails and has an energy to it that always makes for a fun night with friends.
Herb & Wood
2210 Kettner Blvd
Herb & Wood serves rustic, wood-fired dishes & old-school cocktails in a beautiful, sprawling space that makes us feel like we’ve left San Diego and arrived in Europe for the evening. Their menu highlights Mediterranean flavors and brings a California ethos of seasonality and sustainability to every dish. Herb & Wood has been one of our top restaurants in San Diego since it opened its doors.
750 W Fir St #103
Bencotto‘s name means a meal “well done” or cooked perfectly in Italian, and many people consider their fresh pasta to be close to perfect. The restaurant puts a unique spin on traditional Italian cuisine and regional specialties that are designed to share.
1845 India St
Civico 1845 specializes in contemporary Italian cooking with vegan options and is consistently recognized as one of the top Italian restaurants in the city. It’s located in the heart of Little Italy and is one of the best places to feel the energy of the neighborhood.
1917 India Street
Barbusa serves authentic Modern Sicilian Cuisine with a flare, and is our favorite place in Little Italy to go with a larger group for a celebratory meal. The restaurant is a project of the Busalacchi family, considered to be ‘founders’ of the neighborhood’s restaurant scene. Ask for your food to be served ‘on the board’ for a fun experience.
Rovino Rotisserie & Wine
2034 Kettner Blvd
A piece of Italy on your table. That’s what you get when you wine and dine for dinner at Rovino Rotisserie & Wine. Try their fan favorite, the Pollo + Prosciutto Tortellini with chicken-stuffed tortellini, pesto cream, crispy prosciutto, Romano cheese, tomatoes, and lemon zest.
Don’t end the night without dessert!
Little Italy is home to some of the most insanely good desserts in the city.
Here are our can’t-miss picks for the best restaurants in San Diego’s Little Italy neighborhood to go for dessert when your sweet tooth calls!
Born & Raised
1909 India St
All of the desserts at Born & Raised are just like the restaurant itself: big, beautiful, and over-the-top good. Pro tip: pair your desert with an espresso martini or two.
1430 Union St
For almost 30 years, the decadent dessert creations at Extraordinary Desserts have been blowing minds. Their desserts are almost too beautiful to eat…but you’ll find a way! 😉
Nonna & Zucchero
1735 India St
Nonna is an homage to every Italian grandma’s unwavering passion for family and food. You’ll find a wide variety of Italian desert options that won’t disappoint!
Salt & Straw
1670 India St
Salt & Straw‘s scoop shop has some of the most original flavors of ice cream you’ll ever experience (Example: Pistachio Rose Water with Strawberry Mochi at the time of this writing!). The line is always long, but worth it. Get your scoop and cross the street to Piazza della Famiglia for a perfect Little Italy experience.
It wouldn’t be an Italian neighborhood without plenty of wine!
You will, of course, be able to find plenty of good wine at the restaurant of your choosing, but there are also many other cool options.
Here are some can’t-miss places to enjoy a glass or two over good conversation.
1918 India St
M Winehouse is a quirky, bi-level bar within a tiny old home that offers a wide range of wines and light bites. It’s the perfect place to have a drink before your dinner reservation; or for a nightcap after.
Carruth Wine Garden
2215 Kettner Blvd
Carruth Cellars Wine Garden is an urban winery tasting room with industrial decor & a garden patio with outdoor seating. It’s one of the best ‘secrets’ in Little Italy, but sadly they have announced they are closing due to unsuccessful negotiations with their landlord. We are including them in here in hopes that someone gets the damn situation fixed and they can stay! 🙂
2161 India St
Vino Carta is your perfect neighborhood wine shop! They focus on small, family-run producers and natural wines made through organic and sustainable farming practices. They offer retail wine sales, and wine by the glass and light bites at their bar.
Pali Wine Bar
2130 India St
Pali Wine Bar‘s tasting room is located near the heart of Little Italy and is the latest spot to go wine tasting in San Diego! Stop in to taste their Pali wine flights of the best Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from the Central Coast and stick around for food pairings and weekly live music.
Little Italy is home to some of the most beautiful bars – that produce beautiful cocktails to match – in all of San Diego!
Whether it’s at Born & Raised, Wolfie’s, Ironside, or any of the others listed below, we are perfectly happy settling in at the bar for a few stiff cocktails and good conversation.
Here are our picks for the best bars in San Diego’s Little Italy neighborhood – we hope to see you pulling up a stool next to us soon!
Born & Raised
1909 India St
The Born & Raised Old Fashioned is the best in the city! Another must-try is Born and Raised‘s signature Dirty Martini made with Vodka, Housemade Brine, House-Pickled Onion, and Olives. Only $7 during happy hour, 3-4:30PM on weekdays. And they will happily stuff your garnish with bleu cheese upon request!
2401 Kettner Blvd. Suite B
Wolfie’s Carousel Bar serves some of the most beautiful and tasty cocktails in the city. Don’t leave without ordering their crowd-pleaser, Le Bardot, concocted with gin, apricot, strawberry and egg white; or The Lumière featuring gin, elderflower and chartreuse. Oh, and the bar IS spinning…that’s not just the cocktails getting to your head!
2001 Kettner Blvd
Along with its creative menu of American dishes with some global flare, Kettner Exchange is also a great place for handcrafted cocktails. Enjoy them in the open-air on their rooftop patio.
2400 India St
Camino Riviera is SDCM’s newest venture and an exploration of Yucatán inspired dining. The stylish spot offers seasonal Mexican food, live DJ’s, and a setting that makes you feel like you’ve escaped to Tulum. Grab a glass of Levántate, their mezcal meets espresso martini cocktail drink!
1654 India St.
The bar at Ironside Fish & Oyster is gorgeous – one of our favorite places in the city to sit for oysters and cocktails. You can’t go wrong!
Cloak and Petal
1953 India St
Journey down to Cloak + Petal for a selection of potent, unique cocktails in a stylish, high-energy environment based on the Japanese underground culture. Pair up your cocktail order with a bottle of champagne or saki to wash it down (yes…wash down your booze with more booze – it’s that kind of night!).
Craft & Commerce
675 W Beech St
Craft & Commerce is a great bar, but it’s the tiki speakeasy False Idol in the back that makes it worth the trip to the far end of Little Italy. Be sure to only bring your friends that can handle their booze…the drinks are stiff!
Waterfront Bar & Grill
2044 Kettner Blvd
Waterfront Bar is an institution in San Diego! This throwback to the days of sailors coming off of boats will give you a taste of how rowdy the neighborhood once was. This is the place to go for a very casual, loud night with your troublemaking friends.
As you can tell, we have a love affair with Little Italy!
We hope you enjoyed our guide to the best restaurants in San Diego’s Little Italy neighborhood – be sure to stop by often for updates!
See you there, San Diego!