Six Trendy + Tasty Places to Eat Dinner in Little Italy

Upon moving to San Diego, I had made it my mission to map out each of the different neighborhoods and list the top trendiest and tastiest restaurants to check out. It's in my blood -- I'm a New Yorker. Food is an obsession for us. From heated arguments over the best neighborhood pizza slices or bagels, to more ethereal debates over the chicest, new place to hit market, or which is the most iconic restaurant, the whole city is always sniffing out the best places to eat! Indulging in great food and cocktails is one of the many things us New Yorkers do best. So, as I'm sure you could imagine, I've been eating my way through San Diego and checking quite a few places off my list.

For all those out of town-ers or even residents asking themselves that one question: Where should I eat right now? I've got your answers; and I'm going to start with none other than Little Italy.

What is Little Italy? Exactly what it sounds like. A chic, pedestrian-friendly San Diego neighborhood that is packed with trendy boutiques, indie music venues, cocktail bars, urban wine bars, brewpubs and restaurants with bustling patios. The quaint neighborhood gives you a taste of Italy - you can smell the delicious, fresh Italian food as you walk down the two main streets: India and Kettner - without the hefty airline price tag. It's definitely become one of my favorite neighborhoods to spend my time and dine.

Here is a list of six of my favorite places to eat dinner:

  • Bencotto Italian Kitchen - “Bencotto” means and refers to a meal “done well,” or perfectly cooked. And, let’s just say, this restaurant lives up to it’s name. The chic bi-level eatery is famed for it’s artisanal Italian eats, which include handmade pasta and classic desserts. This pasta is the real deal. The traditional menu is un-traditionally “designed-to-share” so that guests can casually pick and choose dishes while enjoying either an “aperitivo” or a full course meal!
  • Kettner Exchange - The eye-catching restaurant-come-cocktail bar boasts two levels of drinking and innovative American dining (such as Tenderbelly Pork Toro, Moroccan Braise Lamb, Chicken Tikka Masala, etc.) and is filled with subtle nods to the City's great bay and nautical history. Whether you come to dine with friends, people watch on the sun-kissed, (main attraction) rooftop terrace or savor weekend brunch on Sundays, Kettner Exchange will not disappoint. You can even find live music on certain nights!
  • Craft + Commerce -  The Little Italy eatery and cocktail bar is what hipster gastropub dreams are made of. Craft + Commerce’s library/hunting den-themed space offers indoor dining area which is filled with walls of books, broken mirrors, a herd of vintage taxidermy and a brick wall with the restaurant's motto 'Demand Less' in 3D, or an outdoor, wrap-around patio seating that comes with cozy built-in fire pit tables. Both options are great for enjoing the restaurant's season-inspired small and large plates and apothecary-esque cocktail (no vodka though!) menu. Bonus: there is a tiki speakeasy bar featured inside!
  • Herb + Wood - Herb + Wood is excellent. The sprawling, upscale locale offers multiple spaces to relax and dine, including an elegant bar, informal lounge area with cozy love seats and plush horeshoe shaped booths and several separate dining spaces that have rustic meets muted pastel vibes. The restaurant serves up tapas-style, wood-fired dishes made with seasonal ingredients and old-school, fruit and herb-infused cocktails that have a botanical focus -- the menu is sure to please any palette. I kid you not when I say to get ready to feast your feed on a menu and atmosphere that’s bound to get your, and your followers’ approval. 
  • Barbusa - This stylish Italian restaurant offers a modern take on Sicilian fare. From artisan pizza, handmade pasta, and seafood-centric dishes, to handcrafted Italian cocktails and Southern Italian wines, this buzzy Little Italy spot has something for everyone to enjoy! My personal favorites? The pizza, sicilian meatballs, bolognese al forno and fiori di zuzza, to name a few dishes.
  • Born and Raised - This is not your average steakhouse. And, for that reason, you don't go here without knowing your going to be spending a pretty penny for an over-the-top experience. The high-end, glitzy, Little Italy restaurant and rooftop is serving up all of your time-honored steakhouse classic dishes, via a table side cart service, and hand-crafted cocktails in the most swanky way. Imagine: leather booths with green marbled table tops in the walnut-paneled, brass-detailed dining room, a 45-foot cocktail bar with a custom 26-tap system, and other nods to the mid-century and art deco areas. The timeless design hits you visually in all of the right places and, for me, it has a classic New York appeal that I very much miss.

Happy dining!

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