Little Italy San Diego

Experience true authentic Italian cuisine at the local cafes and tour the breweries while exploring the vibrant nightlife, and delightful shops. Or take a pedicab to attractions such as Balboa and PETCO Parks, or the USS Midway. Fun and entertainment are just a few blocks away in this walkable neighborhood.
Little Italy
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Eat, Smile, Laugh & Love
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Little Italy San Diego
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Authentic Italian Cuisine & Breweries In Little Italy

Enjoy the Little Italy Food HallThe Famous Juniper and Ivy Resturant in Little Italy

Little Italy, San Diego, is one of the best places in the city for food lovers. It combines a warm Italian community with one of the hippest food scenes around. You can munch on rustic brick-oven pizza at a third-generation restaurant or treat your significant other to a luxurious tasting menu cooked by the biggest food stars.

In Little Italy, you get to experience rich history, amazing culture and unforgettable dining. Many people describe this iconic neighborhood as a laid-back Gaslamp Quarter. It has buzzing nightlife and tons of cool shops, but with a more relaxed and intimate backdrop than San Diego’s famous urban playground.

Great food is a major part of what makes incredible vacations. If you tend to plan your itinerary around where to eat just as much as what to do, then Little Italy is definitely the place for you. With tasty craft beers, fine wines, perfect prosciutto and delicious desserts, foodies never run out of options for excitement.

There are plenty of hotels located directly in Little Italy, and the neighborhood is also within walking distance of Bankers Hill, Harborview, Gaslamp Quarter and other Downtown San Diego locations. Reaching Little Italy from the San Diego International Airport takes less than five minutes by taxi. The stunning waters of San Diego Bay, The Embarcadero and Waterfront Park are less than half a mile away.

One thing you’ll notice quickly is how incredible the neighborhood's hospitality is. Thanks to cobblestone, marble sculptures, string lights, brick storefronts and charming cafes, it’s easy to feel like you’re walking the streets of a quiet European village instead of San Diego. You can even hear church bells ring every half hour.

The history of Little Italy, San Diego, goes back to the 1920s. A close-knit Italian community of fisherman and farmers settled in this commercial and residential district, working hard in what was once a thriving tuna industry. These days, Little Italy is prominent as a vibrant center of art, food and traditional values.

Little Italy San Diego
Why you'll love Little Italy
Get a taste of Little Italy, San Diego at a sidewalk café or brewery. Or take a pedicab to explore the famous Balboa and PETCO Parks. Walk to local boutiques, shops, and picturesque parks!

Bundle museums and SAVE!

The New Children's Museum
The New Children's Museum
Nurture creativity and imagination in San Diego's youngest artists! The New Children's Museum offers multiple hands-on and interactive displays to engage growing minds. Spend the day exploring this museum, and the ever changing exhibits!
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Local Tips
What is a Go San Diego Pass?

The Go San Diego Pass allows visitors to experience more attractions while simultaneously saving money.

With the pass, you can visit San Diego’s top attractions like the San Diego Zoo or LEGOLAND, all while saving up to 55% off on admissions. Plus, the pass gives you the ability to skip the line when visiting select attractions.

Things to Do

Balboa Park
Balboa Park
Petco Park
Petco Park
USS Midway
USS Midway

Fun Things to Do in Little Italy

Travelers with interest in Italian history, culture and food can experience a taste of Italy without ever leaving San Diego. Little Italy has something for everyone, including foodies, art majors, couples on honeymoons and families with kids. Here are a few places to visit and things to do in this welcoming neighborhood:

Take Home a New Recipe from Amici Park

One reason to visit Amici Park is its breathtaking arrangement of flowering plants and vintage architecture. There are also colorful tables around the park with sculptures of classic Italian dishes and recipes in bronze lettering. If you take along a few sheets of papers and a crayon, you can copy the secret recipes from the plaques.

While you’re at Amici Park, you can also try your hand at bocce, a classic Italian sport that is, not surprisingly, very relaxing. Local residents gather every day to play, so you may be able to strike up a friendly conversation and learn the rules.

Visit Piazza della Famiglia

With a gorgeous tiled fountain and picturesque cobblestone streets, this Italian piazza is the heart of Little Italy. Piazza della Familia provides a magnificent opportunity to spend time with your loved ones. It’s romantic, relaxing and gorgeous.

The piazza features numerous tables and umbrellas, along with ample outdoor space to walk and talk underneath blue skies. Colorful buildings on either side give it an enclosed, private feel. As the sun goes down, this open-air courtyard turns into a charming gathering place with beautiful string lights overhead.

Local Tips
Date Night?
Little Italy is the perfect place to take a date for a romantic meal then enjoy an espresso and gelato afterwards at a sidewalk cafe.

There are actually several spectacular piazzas in Little Italy that are worth your time, especially if you have an introspective nature. Stroll underneath a tree-filled covered path at Piazza Giannini or people-watch at Piazza Basilone.

Walk and Shop at India Street

India Street is Little Italy’s central hub, featuring countless shops, cafes, restaurants, artisans and art galleries. It’s a wonderful place to wander aimlessly and discover amazing gems. Best of all, if your stomach starts to growl, you’re always a few steps away from handmade sweets and bistro eats.

Enjoy a Private Walking Tour

One of Little Italy’s biggest draws is it’s laid-back vibe. That means it’s perfectly natural to want to take your time. Private walking tours let you visit historical places such as the Firefighters Museum or Our Lady of the Rosary Church without feeling rushed.

If you’re worried about the cost, don’t be. You can download free apps on your mobile device that provide information about all of the area’s most interesting sites. In fact, some Little Italy apps for San Diego even use augmented reality, games and videos to tell the story.

Sample the Little Italy Farmer’s Market

Every Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., the local farmer’s market comes to life with bright colors and the freshest farm-to-table produce. Buy certified-organic fruit and veggies, real honey and tasty nuts, or taste a variety of artisanal cheeses. You can also pick out a bouquet of beautiful flowers.

This vibrant market is geared around tourists and residents, so you can expect a lot of ready-to-eat dishes to sample. There’s no better souvenir than homemade jams, Italian seasonings or unique sauces. Even better, the Little Italy Mercato features live music while you stroll.

Grab a drink at Waterfront Bar, San Diego’s oldest bar

The Waterfront Bar & Grill was established in 1933 shortly after prohibition was repealed. It is “San Diego’s Oldest Tavern” and holds the city’s oldest liquor license. At the time of its establishment, The Waterfront was the closest bar/restaurant to the water, but it has since lost this designation. The bar is open from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m., giving you plenty of time to stop in for a cold one and grab a bite to eat.

Popular Activities

San Diego Harbor Cruise
San Diego Harbor Cruise
$28 per person
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The World Famous San Diego Zoo
The World Famous San Diego Zoo
Discounts Available
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Explore San Diego Bay
Explore San Diego Bay
$42 per person
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GoCar: Downtown & Gaslamp Loop
GoCar: Downtown & Gaslamp Loop
$34 per person
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The Best Food in Little Italy

There’s nothing wrong with admitting that the main reason you’re in Little Italy is the food. This place has a natural draw for food lovers. With so many bakeries, delis, pizza shops and gourmet eateries, you’re practically guaranteed amazing breakfasts, brunches, lunches and dinners.

Pizza

Make sure to set aside room for a lot of pizza. From roasted toppings and hearty sauces to made-from-scratch dough and brick-oven char, the pizzas here are legendary. It’s tempting to grab a slice or two for lunch, especially when it comes to smoked pizzas cooked with the best farm-to-table ingredients and cheeses.

Lasagna and Pasta

Most, if not all, of the Italian fare you find in Little Italy is made in house. There’s something special about lasagna noodles rolled out by hand and layered with fresh herbs, aged cheeses, tender meats and sauces that have simmered for hours. Whether you visit Michelin-star restaurants or rustic cafes, you can always look forward to scratch-made pasta with bold flavor.

Pastries

Another highlight of dining in Little Italy is the hand-made pastries. Feast on silky-smooth cannoli, heavenly breads and flaky croissants straight out of the oven. There are countless bakeries in the neighborhood, making them an ideal choice for breakfast — as long as you’re willing to get up early.

Espresso

Many of the bistros and cafes in the area are al fresco, so you can sip on a flavorful espresso or cappuccino while enjoying the refreshing bay breeze. It can be a lot of fun to pop into a different cafe every day as you explore the shops and art galleries in the neighborhood. Snap a few chic selfies from your sidewalk table.

Wine and Ale

The nightlife at Little Italy is generally less rowdy than Gaslamp Quarter and more romantic. There are numerous wine bars perfect for tasting Italian imports and Napa Valley vintages. Nearby craft breweries and pubs offer signature ales, Irish beers and unique cocktails, and there are also a few famous dive bars for hanging out with friends.

Seafood

Oysters, fresh fish, octopus, lobster and shrimp are a great fit for succulent Italian pasta. Little Italy restaurants have access to fresh frutti di mare from the ocean, and organic ingredients, so you’re in for a thrilling culinary experience. In addition to Italian takes on seafood, you can also find upscale restaurants with Japanese influences, SoCal fusion and New American flair.

Desserts

No list of the best food in Little Italy could possibly be complete without mentioning dessert. Whether you go to a bakery, ice-cream shop or a sit-down restaurant, make sure to order at least one dessert each day. The gelato, cannoli tiramisu, panna cotta, sfogliatella and crostata are deliciously mind-blowing.

If you’re not sure how to schedule your itinerary to visit all the best restaurants in Little Italy, you may want to schedule a food tour instead. Many of the local hotels organize wine tasting tours, dessert tours and other fabulous foodie adventurous to the city’s hidden gems. Highlights range from out-of-the-way bakeries to celebrity-chef restaurants.

Featured Activity

Front of the USS Midway Museum in San Diego
USS Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum
Located in downtown San Diego, the USS Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum provides history of aircraft built in California. The museum includes over 60 exhibits with restored aircraft and tours of the carrier.
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Opportunities to Eat, Smile, Laugh and Love

Little Italy’s restaurants offer many unforgettable vacation experiences. Couples can sip wine with the backdrop of an Italian village, and kids can sink their teeth into the best desserts around. Many of the restaurants here feature romantic dining with open-air architecture, classy décor and beautiful gardens.

If you’ve always wanted to dine in an exclusive eatery with a mouthwatering tasting menu, make reservations at one of the stars of Kettner Boulevard. This lively part of Little Italy is also known as “Top Chef Alley” because of the famous restaurateurs who set up shop there. Food show icons who lead restaurants here include Chef Richard Blais and Chef Brian Malarkey.

Normally, restaurants come and go, but in Little Italy they stick around for decades. There are several must-visit local favorites to try that have been in business for generations, including Filippi’s Pizza Grotto, Mimmo’s Italian Village and Mona Lisa Italian Restaurant. The wait is worth it, as meals never disappoint.

Kids and adults alike enjoy visits to the delicatessens in Little Italy. Handmade sausages, prosciutto hams, salami and other cured meats are irresistible. You can also find unique cheeses and sauces, or pick up a real Italian sub with secret-recipe meatballs.

Featured Hotel
Porto Vista Hotel
Exterior night view, Porto Vista Hotel
Balboa Park
Balboa Park
Families
Families
Near Bay
Near Bay
3 Stars3 Stars3 Stars
Porto Vista Hotel, located in Little Italy near the Gaslamp Quarter, has a mid-century feel that appeals to guests who appreciate atmosphere & amenities.
Prices Starting at $119
Check Availability

Know Before You Go & Tips

Cafes
Cafes
Parks
Parks
Pedicab
Pedicab
Shopping
Shopping
Walkable
Walkable

Tips for Visit Little Italy

Make Reservations

Little Italy is known for its amazing Italian food, if you are planning heading here to eat make sure to make reservations ahead of time. Most of the popular restaurants will fill up fast.

Try the Deserts & the Espresso

You already had dinner, make sure you try the deserts while you are in Little Italy. Of course, you will want to eat your cannoli with a small shot of espresso.

Happy Hour

There are quite a few local breweries in Little Italy and they are worth a visit no matter what time of the day you come to Little Italy.

Little Italy San Diego
is Famous For:
Breweries
Breweries
Cruise Ship Terminal
Cruise Ship Terminal
Nightlife
Nightlife
Sidewalk Cafés
Sidewalk Cafés
Known For:
Hop on Hop off Bus
Hop on Hop off Bus
Parks
Parks
Pedicab
Pedicab
This Month's Forecast
66℉ / 82℉
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Stay

Hilton Garden Inn San Diego Downtown/Bayside
Family Friendly
3 Star Rating3 Star Rating3 Star Rating
Hilton Garden Inn San Diego Downtown/Bayside
from $153 / night
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Porto Vista Hotel
Near Cruise Port
3 Star Rating3 Star Rating3 Star Rating
Porto Vista Hotel
from $119 / night
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DoubleTree by Hilton San Diego Downtown
Near Cruise Port
3 Star Rating3 Star Rating3 Star Rating
DoubleTree by Hilton San Diego Downtown
from $176 / night
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FOUND Hotel
Budget Hotel
3 Star Rating3 Star Rating3 Star Rating
FOUND Hotel
from $67 / night
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