Centrally located between San Diego’s Gaslamp district and the airport, Little Italy is a vibrant neighborhood with so much to offer that you could spend the whole day and night doing fun things there!
Did someone say brunch?
Morning Glory is famously known for its glorious décor, ambiance, brunch cocktails and delicious food. Be sure to try their decadent souffle pancakes, warm your bum on their heated toilet seats and snap a shot with their champagne vending machine. But be prepared to be patient as they don’t take reservations and wait times can be more than several hours at their busiest.
For those not wanting to wait, check out Farmer’s Table right below. With an outdoor bar and tons of outdoor tables in the heart of Little Italy, enjoy great food, cocktails, and people-watching at its finest.
Wanting to grab something healthier on the go? Start off your day right by checking out Parakeet Cafe. All food is organically sourced from local farms and their menu is health consciously focused, so you can eat something delicious and feel great about it too.
Go on a shopping spree at the Little Italy Mercato.
Every Saturday from 8:00am – 2:00pm and Wednesday from 9:30am – 1:30pm is Little Italy’s outdoor farmer’s market. The Saturday market is the largest in all of San Diego, taking up six blocks on West Date Street, between Kettner Blvd to Front St. Enjoy fresh food, produce, and trinkets from local vendors while walking the streets and soaking in the sunshine. To grab a bite there, head to the top of the market and work your way down. Seven Seas coffee and the French Panini stand next door are not to miss – the Peanut Butter cold brew and Americano pinini will leave your taste buds buzzing! Best of all, you’re supporting small, local San Diego businesses.
Photo courtesy of Culture Trip
Take the tykes to Little Italy’s San Diego Firehouse Museum.
Home to the Old Fire Station 6, built over 100 years ago, you’ll see every type of firefighting gear imaginable, read about local heroes and see a bunch of old and new fire trucks (even one that was a horse-drawn carriage!).
Let your fur baby run free in Amici Park.
Man’s best friend tagging along for the day? Stop by Amici Park for a safe, enclosed area for your dog to freely play. They also have bocce ball courts if you want to join a game. And don’t forget to check out the amphitheater that hosts outdoor movies on Saturday evenings during the summer. Feeling peckish for some Italian food, head to the rustic-chic Davanti Enoteca or the buzzing night time vibe of Barbusa and stay a while for happy hour.
Step into Our Lady of the Rosary Church to feel like you were transported to Italy.
Even if you’re not religious, pop your head into this beautiful Lady of the Rosary church that was built almost 100 years ago to admire the gold-adorned murals immaculately decorated from wall to ceiling, stained glass windows and statues worthy of an Italian cathedral.
Sight-see at the Park
Your San Diego tour isn’t complete without a visit to a well-known park. Balboa Park is where nature, science, and culture meet. Balboa Park is home to vibrant gardens, fascinating museums, and a diverse array of recreational attractions… plus the San Diego Zoo! For an added bonus, it’s conveniently just minutes from Little Italy and downtown San Diego.
While more like a memorial than a historic park, the Piazza Basilone was created in 2003 to honor GySgt John Basilone and the “Boys The Never Came Home.” The Piazza Basilone is a special gathering place for families and veterans.
The San Diego Maritime Museum and USS Midway are also a must-see. The Waterfront Park (just a short walk from the Maritime Museum) has spray fountains and lots of play areas for kids.
Hop around for some drinks!
Do something different and stop by Little Italy’s Wolfie’s Carousel and Bar. Unique to San Diego, the bar is built into an actual moving carousel. But don’t worry, it goes slow, so that you won’t get sick (hopefully!). Make sure to book reservations in advance and request the bar seating, although sitting at a table in a cage with a carousel horse over your head isn’t terrible either. Have we piqued your interest yet?
Photo Courtesy of Davis Ink
Nolita Hall is a fun beer hall (they serve wine, cocktails, and a delicious seasonal menu too) with an abundance of screens playing every sport or competitive activity you can think of. Situated directly under the airport flight path, you’ll hear airplanes flying overhead. Here’s the fun part – they have a board that lists real-time flight information, so you know exactly which plane is right above you!
Go beer tasting!
San Diego is the craft beer capital of the world, so stopping by a local brewery should definitely be on your list of things to do. Conveniently located in Little Italy is Ballast Point Brewing. Sample award-winning brews in their indoor dining area, where they brew beers onsite or enjoy casually on the outdoor patio where you can relax in the open-air sunshine.
Treat yourself to a nice dinner.
One of the best things to do in Little Italy? Eat Italian food, of course! San Diego’s culinary scene has exploded in recent years, with famous chefs and chic-designed restaurants inhabiting the area. Little Italy’s streets are filled with an eclectic mix of traditional romantic Italian restaurants and modern urban dining that are sure to satisfy whatever your taste buds are looking for.
For an authentic Italian experience, there are many greats to choose from, but one of our favorites is Monello Italian Restaurant. Specializing in handmade pasta and pizza they are most famous for their “cheese wheel pasta.” What’s that, you ask? They literally serve you pasta in a 60-lbs. Parmesan cheese wheel and it is everything a cheesy pasta lover could dream of.
Even if you’re not craving a mouthwatering steak, check out Born and Raised for their classy cocktails and jaw-dropping decor. With a rumored budget of $6.5 million – dine glamorously downstairs in luxurious attention to detail worthy of a modern-day Titanic. Or head upstairs for a signature cocktail in their open-air terrace bar that overlooks Little Italy. And don’t forget to use their restroom on the way out; they’ve got golden toilet seats with a memorable message on the seat for you.
Photo courtesy of San Diego Eater
Save room for dessert!
Have a sweet tooth? Pop into Extraordinary Desserts Little Italy location for the most beautifully decorated and delicious sweets created by award-winning executive pastry chef Karen Krasne, who has been featured in both Forbes magazine and the Food network. So much attention to detail goes into each dessert that you’ll almost not want to eat them (note, we said almost). Grab a couple of treats and pair them with a coffee or step it up a notch with a beer and wine for a great nightcap.
Craving ice cream? With a line outside the door, there’s a reason people patiently wait for Salt & Straw. It’s about the experience! Once inside, their friendly staff welcomes you to sample their selection of traditional and very non-traditional flavors, which might surprise your taste buds!
Last, you can’t go wrong with a traditional Italian gelato. Pop into Bobboi, where all flavors are made in-house daily. They have both traditional and non-traditional flavors based on local seasonal ingredients.
Looking for the bar scene?
With warm weather year-round, the San Diego bar scene does not disappoint, and Little Italy is no exception. If checking out the bar scene is on your list of things to do, stop by Barbusa, a modern, stylish Italian restaurant whose bar atmosphere has a fun party vibe. And in case you need a little snack, try their Fiori Di Zucca, tempura fried squash blossoms filled with cheese and topped with jam, yum!
Award-winning restaurant Kettner Exchange at Kettner Boulevard not only offers amazing food but has an incredible rooftop lounge that steals the night scene. Featuring live DJs every weekend, you can enjoy good music and drinks alongside gorgeous views of the harbor. Hop in a swinging daybed or take it up a notch with the exclusivity of a reserved cabana. Did I mention there’s a giant tree growing in the middle of the multi-level restaurant?
Want to feel like you’re vacationing at a hip club in Tulum? Then check out Camino Riviera. The interior decor and ambiance are on point, making you feel like you’ve been transported to the beautiful beaches and exotic jungles of the Mexican Riviera. Coupled with craft cocktails and live music, this place is definitely vibing and it’s no wonder there’s a line outside the door every weekend.
Last but certainly not least, you can never go wrong with Waterfront Bar & Grill. Open since 1933, it’s San Diego’s oldest tavern, so you know they know how to do it right. Come here for strong drinks at affordable prices, good music, and dancing. You’ll be sure to make some new friends and memories here.
We could go on and on about the many things you can do in San Diego’s Little Italy neighborhood. Overwhelmed with options? Let our experts do the work for you! Join us on our Pizza, Pasta & Piazzas walking food tour, where we show off our favorite restaurants while burning some calories and learn about the history of this once booming tuna fishing town. Or pop into our Little Italy – Vino! Vino! Tour to wine taste your way through one of the most vibrant neighborhoods San Diego has to offer.
Whatever you choose, you can’t really go wrong with all the amazing food, drinks and fun things to do in San Diego’s Little Italy!