San Diego Neighborhood Profile: Little Italy

What to See and Do in Little Italy, San Diego

Little Italy Neighborhood of San Diego
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Little Italy is a neighborhood in downtown San Diego. It was originally a predominately Italian fishing neighborhood. It has seen a resurgence in recent years and now Little Italy is a hip urban neighborhood composed mostly of restaurants, retail shops, home design stores, art galleries and high-rise condos.

Little Italy's History

Little Italy was a stable ethnic business and residential community since the 1920s, and today represents downtown San Diego’s oldest continuous neighborhood business district. At one time, more than 6,000 Italian families lived in Little Italy and toiled to build San Diego into the center of the world tuna industry. With the decline of the tuna industry on the West Coast and the destruction of 35% of Little Italy due to the construction of Interstate 5 in the 1960s, Little Italy suffered nearly thirty years of decline.

What Makes It Special?

San Diego has a few longtime ethnic neighborhoods, but Little Italy has always had a proud tradition. Even during its years as an afterthought for being a downtown interest, the neighborhood was always made up of mom and pop businesses. And now, thanks to redevelopment, the neighborhood has a spiffy new gleam, with new eateries, shops, and nightspots.

What Defines It?

Food. It's Little Italy, after all, isn't it? For years, you went to the neighborhood for pizza at Filippi's or baked goods and sandwiches at Solunto Bakery. Now there are some high-end gourmet restaurants mixed in with those traditional eateries. Today, it's also a great spot away from the bustle of the Gaslamp Quarter and the rest of downtown to just spend the day strolling and chilling. 

Things to Do

Little Italy is a great place to live, with new condos, eateries, and shops all within a few blocks. It also is the home to fun annual events like Art Walk, Festa, stickball championships, Carnevale and others that make Little Italy a festive place to live.

Best Bets for Eats

Well, if you want straightforward Italian food there's the aforementioned Filippi's Pizza Grotto as well as Mimmo's Italian Village, Buon Appetito, Bencotto Italian Kitchen and Mona Lisa Italian Restaurant. There's also Indigo Grill, Extraordinary Desserts, the Waterfront and Princess Pub and Grille for other tastes.

Best Bets for Drinks and Entertainment

Little Italy is a little more laid back than the nearby Gaslamp Quarter, but you can easily find places to drink and be entertained. Anthology is a classy nightclub and restaurant that hosts national musical acts. At the other end of the spectrum is the Casbah, featuring indie and alternative live music. The Waterfront is your classic dive bar that serves great burgers. And hipsters head over to the nearby W hotel and hit the clubs and bars there.

Where to Shop

Little Italy is a place of specialty shops, boutiques, and services. There's Architectural Salvage, Boomerang For Modern, French Garden Shoppe, Nelson Photo Supplies, and lots of others worth strolling into.

How to Get There

From Interstate 5, heading South:
Take Front St./Civic Ctr. exit, make the first right on Cedar Street, drive two blocks west, make a right on India Street.

From Interstate 5, heading North:
Exit Hawthorn/Airport, make a left on Columbia Street then a right on Cedar Street, then a right on India Street.

From Highway 8:
Take Highway 163 South to Highway 5 North, exit Hawthorn/Airport exit, make a left on Columbia Street then a right on Cedar Street, then a right on India Street.

Public transportation is easily accessed via the Blue Line's County Administration Center/Little Italy station.

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