The Best Italian Restaurants in San Diego

When you think of the word Italy, many things come to mind.  You may think of Rome, gondolas, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, The Vatican, art, fine leather goods, shoes or vacation. But, when you think of Italian, your mind may wander to a tastier place, one of pizza, pasta, marinara sauce, calamari, aged cheese, or gelato.  Italian cuisine has been a staple part of the American diet, and it has been modified throughout the years to accommodate American tastes and expectations for our dining experiences.  With that, some of the authentic lusters for what Italian food is has been lost, but lucky for you, San Diego has an array of delicious and authentic Italian restaurants that will have you thinking you teleported to Italy.  Here is a list of our top Italian restaurants organized alphabetically.

Buon Appetito

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Nestled in the heart of Little Italy, this staple restaurant offers a cozy and casual atmosphere that can satisfy the first date couple, and a family of tourists at the end of a long day of sightseeing. The pastas are made from scratch, and the dipping sauce made with fresh ingredients like tomato, garlic, and herbs that comes with the bread service will have you happy you arrived. Try ordering their homemade lasagna or cioppino, an Italian fisherman’s stew. We would suggest that you order right off the front-page menu, which features the daily specials for both lunch and dinner.

Buona Forchetta

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As you walk up to this restaurant in the quaint neighborhood of South Park, you are swept away to a place where everyone seems to know each other, as if the neighborhood came out to play the way they always do each night.  The large patio is covered with hanging string lights that adorn large trees, and the smell of pizza will make any person’s stomach rumble. Start off with one of their many appetizers, or ‘antipasti’, like the caprese made with organic heirloom tomatoes, fior di latte, and basil. Pizza and pasta are the specialties here.  Just take our word for it.  Choose from their list of house-made pasta shapes and top it off with one of their incredible sauces, and order any one of the SPECIALTY pizzas.



best italian restaurants sd - so diego

Located only a mile from historic Balboa Park, this restaurant is housed in one of the coolest looking buildings in Little Italy.  With its ultra contemporary design, you’ll feel as though you’re in one of the hippest restaurants in Rome.  We can’t get enough of their salami meats served with their fried gnocchi, and of course, their pasta. Bencotto serves traditional Italian dishes, but pasta is the main attraction here. The pasta is all made daily, and you can choose your dream combo of pasta and sauce for your dish.  When in doubt, just go with one of their specials.  You won’t be disappointed.

Double Standard

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At Double Standard, we veer away from the traditional Italian and bring in a fresh way of creating dishes inspired by Italian flavors.  Their menu changes weekly to ensure guests are served the freshest ingredients of the season sourced by local purveyors.  Ask for the chef-tasting menu, and you will go on a tasting journey for the soul.  The restaurant is found in the heart of the Gaslamp Quarter and features a fun and eclectic interior design.  Enjoy your time here with friends enjoying the vibrant flavors in the colorful space.

Salvatore’s Cucina Italian

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This restaurant has been an Italian food staple in Downtown, San Diego since the 1980’s.  The old-world Italian vibe is alive in the elegance of this place.  As you walk in, you’ll feel as though you’ve stepped into your long-lost, rich, Italian uncle’s dining room as you’re greeted with warm smiles and superb hospitality.  The food is, of course, amazing, but when you taste their Osso Bucco, you’ll think you’ve died and gone to heaven.  They offer a great wine list and live music for the perfect romantic Italian dinner date. Unwind with a Pinot Grigio and an authentic dish at this San Diego favorite Italian restaurant.


best italian restaurants sd - so diego

In Liberty Station, you’ll find one of San Diego best-known Italian restaurants.  Of course, the food is incredible, but there is something to be said about the spirit of Solare.  They are community members, spreading their love for delicious food and drink through cooking classes and wine dinner events in addition to music events throughout the year.  The restaurant is not ultra fancy, so enjoy great hospitality and your meal on a whim, or for a special occasion. They also have a flavorful happy hour menu that you can enjoy time and time again.

While this list features 6 of the Italian restaurants in San Diego, it’s quite small compared to many Italian restaurants in San Diego.  We hope you go out and explore more local establishments, and if you need help, one of our tours can get you into several establishments in one night.  Whether you’re feeling white wine or red, or simply craving a delectable Italian dish, Italian, be sure to check out our Vino, Vino wine tour in Little Italy.

Book a Vino Vino Wine Tour!