Busalacchi Restaurants’ Lala Debuts in Little Italy

  • Italian
  • Little Italy
  • $$$

Discover the legacy of Busalacchi Restaurants, a family-driven saga that transformed San Diego’s Little Italy into a culinary haven. Led by the next generation, their newest venture, Lala, blends traditional Italian roots with innovative flair, inviting you into a world where every meal feels like coming home.

Family Roots

Busalacchi Restaurants is a multi-generational success story beginning with Sicilian-born Joe Busalacchi Sr. and his brother Frank.

Their journey as restaurateurs began in 1984, laying the groundwork for an illustrious legacy as the duo would go on to elevate the city’s culinary reputation through numerous restaurants across San Diego.

Ultimately finding their niche in a previously-uncharted downtown neighborhood, today, the Busalacchis are widely revered as one of Little Italy’s founding hospitality families and have played a pivotal role in the area’s transformation into the thriving culinary hub it is today.

Guided by the next generation of Busalacchi brothers at the helm—PJ, Joey, and Michael (sons of Joe Sr.), alongside their cousin Vince (son of Frank)—Busalacchi Restaurants is poised to continue a legacy of homegrown hospitality, crafted with love and deeply rooted in the support of their local community.

Busalacchi brothers

“We wanted to create something that our family and the community would be proud of, providing the same level of care and hospitality as my dad and uncle’s restaurants,” says PJ. “Lala is quaint and intimate, welcoming everyone into the space like you’re a part of our family.”

On the Menu

At Lala, pillars of Italian cooking are matched with sun-soaked Mediterranean influences and eclectic variations from Busalacchi Restaurants’ Executive Chef Nino Zizzo.

A 30-year industry veteran and nephew of chef Joe Busalacchi Sr., Chef Zizzo’s commitment to seasonality and his scratch-made credo drives Lala’s diverse menu of twenty or so dishes.

From a slow-simmered Cioppino and savory Veal Parmigiana, menu classics give rise to playfully sophisticated dishes, including Lala Caviar blinis with crème fraiche, Steak Tartare with Chicharrones, “Loaded Potato” Gnocchi, and a decadent New York Strip.

Lala’s signature dessert, Busa Tiramisu, layers martini-soaked lady fingers, mascarpone, and chocolate served in a martini glass.

Lala’s bar program is led by Busalacchi Restaurants’ Antonio Gonzales, a lead bartender whose 27-year career spans notable fine-dining institutions such as Juniper & Ivy and Stake Chophouse & Bar.

The menu centers on nine modern classics infused with Italian influences, such as the Stiletto with housemade Limoncello and cream, Lala’s Martini with vodka, peppadew brine, lime, basil, and pepper oil, or the Sidepiece with tequila, lime, grapefruit, ginger root, and mint.

A trio of Barrel-aged cocktails features the Lagroni with gin, aperitivo, Aperol, and peach bitters, Italian Old Fashioned with Rye Whiskey, orange, and cinnamon syrup, and a classic Negroni. Lala Little Italy also offers a handful of boutique wines and craft beers, including non-alcoholic variations.

The Aesthetic

A nod to Italian charm with a touch of moody decadence, Lala takes a ‘more is more’ approach to layering eclectic design influences and tasseled textures.

Once inside, a plush dining room, a sheltered garden patio, and a wrap-around cocktail bar provide an inviting space for various social experiences with seating for up to 60 guests.

Lala Little Italy

Interior designer Taylor Shaffer (LPA Design Studio and a former founding partner of Open Gym) echoed the flirtatious atmosphere of Lala’s Italian-influenced neighborhood through two-toned olive leather and velvet furnishings, eclectic lighting and décor, antique mirrors, and curved walnut paneling juxtaposed by natural stone and hues of coral and burnt sienna throughout.

Italian restaurant interior in san diego

See you there!

Lala Little Italy is located at 1919 India Street, San Diego, CA 92101. The restaurant is open daily from 5 PM to 11 PM with future plans for an extended late-night service on weekends.

Reservations are highly encouraged. For more information and hours of operation, please visit here and follow along on Instagram.

See you there, San Diego!

Venue Details
Working Hours
  • Weekdays
    5 PM - 11 PM
  • Saturday
    5 PM - 11 PM
  • Sunday
    5 PM - 11 PM
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Venue Details
Working Hours
  • Weekdays
    5 PM - 11 PM
  • Saturday
    5 PM - 11 PM
  • Sunday
    5 PM - 11 PM
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