Our Guide to the Top Restaurants in Little Italy of San Diego

Little Italy is a chic, walkable neighborhood near Downtown San Diego offering specialty Italian restaurants, trendy cocktail bars, brewpubs and lively patios with a nod to classic Californian style. These contemporary hot spots dot every inch of the neighborhood, making it the perfect location for a variety of choices.

Now that you know the style of the neighborhood, let’s talk about the food. Culinary craft is among the best in all of San Diego county. From famous Californian chefs to family owned niche small shops, the food in Little Italy is unique, bold and vast. Here is our guide to the top restaurants in Little Italy of San Diego.

 

BREAKFAST

the top restaurants in little italy for breakfast

MORNING GLORY

Morning Glory is the new kid on the block in Little Italy, but it definitely established its place here quickly. Trendy and funky, Morning Glory is bright, pink-hued and Gatsby-esque serving global brunch items and creative boozy beverages.

PRICE: $$

MENU: Global Breakfast

STAFF RECO: Khachapuri or Morning Glory Fried Rice

 

HERB & EATERY

Herb & Eatery is a gourmet market style café serving up delicious breakfast staples, sandwiches, salads and by night, classic pizzas. Casual and charming, this a quick stop for a snack on your morning walk by the bay. Brought you to by the same chefs of the locally famous Herb & Wood and Herb & Sea, this joint is well-known to the foodies and is a recognized restaurant in Little Italy.

PRICE: $$

MENU: Café (breakfast, lunch, pizza parlor 4pm-8)

DRINK RECO: Ginger & juice

FOOD RECO: Thai Croissant

 

ZINQUÉ (zinkæ)

Open from morning to morning (7am – 2am), Zinqué is a sophisticated, trendy, french style café and restaurant serving breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, snacks and drinks all day long.

PRICE: $$$

MENU: French

BREAKFAST RECO: Prosciutto and Gruyére Croissant

LUNCH RECO: Camembert, Arugula, Green Apple Sandwich or the Bahn Mi

DINNER RECO: Smoked Salmon Carpaccio

LUNCH

the top restaurants in little italy for lunch

CAFÉ GRATITUDE

Café Gratitude is a trendy LA chain serving up hip, plant-based fares with in a clean, vibrant atmosphere. Also a great joint for breakfast.

PRICE: $$

MENU: Vegan

FOOD RECO: Magical Black Bean Burger

 

THE CRACK SHACK

The Crack Shack is a famous spot serving up SoCal style fried chicken and its comfort food counterparts. The sunny Cali spirit is exactly the atmosphere you can expect here, with spacious outdoor seating, lawn games and Cali inspired craft cocktails, this place is nothing short of a great time.

PRICE: $$

MENU: SoCal

INDULGING RECO: Coop Deville Sandwich and Mini Biscuits

HEALTHY RECO: Baja Chop Salad

 

HARUMAMA NOODLES + BUNS

Harumama brings the unique flavors and dishes of Japan to the streets of San Diego. Using a modern approach, Harumama specializes in ramen, bao buns, sushi and other Japanese inspired snacks and treats. The perfect lunch spot to fill your Asian take-out style cravings. From 11am to 3pm enjoy their pick 2 for $13.95 lunch special (mon-thurs only).

PRICE: $

MENU: Japanese

RAMEN RECO: Me So Hot

BUN RECO: Crunchy Shrimp Bao Bao

SUSHI RECO: Red Dragon

 

DINNER 

the top restaurants in little italy for dinner

CIVICO 1845

Quaint, cozy and a replica of a pasta shop off the streets of Italy. You can feel the Italian roots seeping from the walls here. With a contemporary approach on classic Italian dishes, your options range from scratch made pasta to Vegan entreés. This one is ranked among the top Vegan restaurants in San Diego. DISCLAIMER: Only spirit served here is wine

PRICE: $$

MENU: Italian

ANTI PASTA RECO: Customizable Formaggio + Prosciutto Bar

VEGAN RECO: Ravioli Zucca

PASTA RECO: Garganelli Zafferano

 

HERB & WOOD

Rustic meets upscale, Herb & Wood emphasizes wood-fired dishes from executive chefs providing decades of culinary expertise. The meals provoke conversation and enjoyment, a dining experience with the total package.

PRICE: $$$

MENU: New American

APP RECO: Smoked Salmon

ENTREÉ RECO: Grilled Lamb Loin

PASTA RECO: Menu changes frequently, but if you’re lucky try the Mafalde

 

CLOAK & PETAL

Japanese tapas and craft cocktails are the specialty here. Cloak & Petal transports you to the world of Tokyo, alluding to the streets and style of its roots.

PRICE: $$

MENU: Japanese

ROLL RECO: Face It, You’re Basic

FOOD RECO: Shrimp Tempura Bowl

 

BORN & RAISED

Straight out of the Gatsby era, the luxurious, timeless interior of this steakhouse primes you for the level of detail you’ll see in the cuisine. From fur covered seats to a spacious, airy rooftop you will be enjoying the scenes just as much as your high-end steak and cocktail.

PRICE: $$$$

MENU: Steakhouse

HOW TO ORDER: Pick your flank, from Classic Filets to Dry-Aged T-Bones then pick your add-on or cooking preference – options include Oscar-Style, Butter Poached Lobster, Truffles or Blue Cheese Crust, to name a few. Choose your sauce and choose your extra, at just $10 pick from Dirty Hashbrowns, Onion Rings, Roasted Cauliflower, Mac + Cheese and many more.

OTHER SIDE OF THE PASTURE RECO: If a steak isn’t your route, there are some options from “The Other Side of the Pasture”. This menu changes frequently but the sample menu item I recommend is the Cook Pigs Dry-Aged Pork with pumpkin and brussels sprouts.

 

JUNIPER + IVY

Constantly evolving menu from celebrity chef Richard Blais. The food here is delicate and unique, with flavors meant to be slowly enjoyed just like your experience there. Fish and other high end meats are the top selections here for one of the best dinner spots in San Diego .

PRICE: $$$

MENU: New American

FOOD RECO: Short Rib & Cheddar Arancini

 

BARBUSA 

Lively and Modern, Barbusa is the upbeat version of the quaint and charming Civico 1845. The pasta options here are handmade and delicate, with flavors unique to Sicily bringing you to one of our top Italian spots for dinner in San Diego. The crowd here is younger, but still suits all styles. It is, in my opinion, the best restaurant for a group gathering or celebration in Little Italy.

PRICE: $$

MENU: Sicilian

FOOD RECO: Carbonara Con Piselli

 

ISOLA PIZZA BAR

Isola Pizza Bar is a contemporary pizzeria and wine bar serving Neapolitan-style wood-fired pizzas, fresh pastas and antipasto.

PRICE: $$

MENU: Pizza

PIZZA RECO: Arugula con l’uovo

 

NONNA + ZUCCHERO

Nonna is the sister restaurant of Sicilian favorite, Barbusa. Homey Italian style comfort foods match the atmosphere here with two cozy patios and a charming interior.

PRICE: $$

MENU: Italian Comfort Food

ANTI PASTA RECO: Polpette or Antipasto Misto

PASTA RECO: Gnocchi al Pesto

DRINKS + LIVELY NIGHT OUT

the best restaurants in little italy for a night out with friends or a late night bite

NOLITA HALL

This spot in San Diego tops the charts for a vibrant atmosphere made for a group night out. A high-class version of a sports bar. Grab your crowd and settle in for a night of craft cocktails, wood-fired pizzas, shuffleboard and watching your favorite sports teams.

PRICE: $$

MENU: New American

FOOD RECO: Shrimp Scampi Pizza

DRINK RECO: Naked at Nolita

 

KETTNER EXCHANGE

Asian fare, a la carte style with craft cocktails, perfect spot to begin or end your evening. Kettner Exchange offers an eclectic style with modern cabanas, buzzy vibes, a superior rooftop and cozy interior.

PRICE: $$$

MENU: Global

SMALL PLATE RECOS: Spicy Shrimp, Pig Mac Bao, Spicy Tuna Crispy Rice, Duck Meatball

DRINK RECO: Dirty Verde

 

CRAFT & COMMERCE

Craft & Commerce is a hip, New American gastropub with seasonal spirit and eats that are nothing short of outstanding. This place stays lively till the lights come on and even features a speakeasy. After you meal dip over to the host stand for an in at False Idol.

PRICE: $$

MENU: New American

FOOD RECO: Shrimp & Grits

DRINK RECO: Trouble No More