San Diego

The Best Italian Restaurants in San Diego

Courtesy of Biga
Courtesy of Biga
Courtesy of Biga

When it comes to Italy, San Diego has a surprisingly deep connection. Italian immigrants streamed into San Diego after San Francisco’s 1906 earthquake, where their previous homes and businesses were destroyed. They settled, of course, in what’s now known as Little Italy, which has since grown from being an Italian fishing neighborhood to becoming the city’s premier wining and dining destination. From painstakingly-sourced handmade pizzas to innovative pastas, there’s something for everyone in San Diego’s many Italian restaurants. Here are some of the best.

Courtesy of Civico 1845
Courtesy of Civico 1845
Courtesy of Civico 1845

Civico 1845

Little ItalyCalabrian brothers Dario and Pietro Gallo moved to San Diego in 2013, collaborating with Little Italy restaurateur Flavio Piromallo to open Civico 1845 in 2015. The menu spans pastas, mains,¬†and antipasti, but their seafood dishes (like the Scialatielli Civico with house-made Calabrian chili pasta, Caledonian prawns, and cherry tomatoes) shine among the other options. Civico 1845 is also known for having an extensive vegan and gluten-free menu — all you have to do is ask for it.

Courtesy of Biga
Courtesy of Biga
Courtesy of Biga

Biga

GaslampFarm-to-table fanatics will delight in the options at Downtown’s Biga, where owner, chef, and Culinary Institute of America graduate Tae Dickey makes his own mozzarella, sausages, and other charcuterie. He’s also obsessive about sourcing fresh and local ingredients¬†and works directly with farms and farmers markets to stock his menu. Dickey is particularly famous for his pizzas, which he cooks in two custom-built, 900-degree ovens, but the menu spans pastas and other mains, too, along with regular specials and pop-up dinners. Break with tradition and try a pasta — the cauliflower rigatoni with roasted and shaved cauliflower, hazelnuts, bottarga, cauliflower cream, and bee pollen is unlike any other pasta dish in the city.

Catania SD
Catania SD
Catania SD

Catania

La JollaWith one of the best views in all of San Diego, Catania in La Jolla could get away with serving just so-so food. In addition to those sweeping views of downtown La Jolla and the Pacific Ocean, though, Catania is serving a wide variety of regional Italian fare like pizzas, crudos, salads, pastas, and a variety of antipasti. Concerning the pizzas, the Sicilian pistachio pizza with burrata, mortadella, pistachio pesto, and pecorino Toscano is a can’t-miss option, while among the mains, you can’t go wrong with the whole-roasted branzino with manila clams, charred broccoli, garlic butter, white wine, salsa verde, bread crumbs, and capers.

RoVino

Little ItalyThe name almost says it all: you’re going to Italy’s RoVino for rotisserie and wine. The pollo arrosto is the star, and is a half rotisserie chicken that’s served on a wooden cutting board with garlic, herbs, olive oil and a selection of roasted potatoes and vegetables. Also worth trying is the carne miste, which serves two, and includes a porchetta in addition to the standard rotisserie option. Steak, branzino,¬†and shrimp are also delicately grilled served full of flavor. The wine list features some of the best selections from across Italy, including regions like Piemonte, Toscana,¬†and Sicilia, along with some lesser-known picks from Sardinia, Puglia, and Trentino-Alto Adige.

Andrew Zimmer/Thrillist
Andrew Zimmer/Thrillist
Andrew Zimmer/Thrillist

Bencotto

Little ItalyWhen you eat at Bencotto, you’re getting pasta. Definitely pasta. There’s no better place for a bowl of carbs in San Diego, where multiple varieties, ranging from fusilli to gnocchi, are made fresh daily. Design your own bowl by selecting the sauce and pasta type. If you’ve never tried the salsiccia (Italian sausage in a spicy tomato sauce) with a broad noodle, like tagliatelle or pappardelle, now’s the time. The sleek, industrial decor and energetic dining room make it a great choice for dinner, but floor-to-ceiling windows that splash the space with natural light mean it’s equally excellent as a lunch pick (and because portions are generous, leftovers are more than likely when you dine midday).

Monello

Little ItalyOwned by the same team as Bencotto, Monello has a similar aesthetic, but feels a few degrees more casual. The extensive menu features several pizzas, seafood, delicious fried things, and a lot more. If you’re craving a bowl of pasta, you’ll be well served at either location, but Monello gets bonus points for its pizza oven, being one of only a few Italian restaurants with a dedicated brunch menu, and for offering a free small plate with a drink purchase during aperitivo (4 to 7pm, daily). You can’t go wrong with the polipo alla griglia (grilled octopus with arugula, fennel, and tomatoes); spaghetti with ragu, or Isola Galleggiante, a mound of soft, baked meringue with cr√®me anglaise and fresh berries.

Erin Jackson/Thrillist
Erin Jackson/Thrillist
Erin Jackson/Thrillist

Solare

Point LomaAccursio Lota, the Sicilian-born chef that helms this Southern Italian restaurant, has earned a lot of recognition from local diners (and publications) for his carefully updated classics, like carpaccio with balsamic pearls and cheese foam, and carefully executed pasta, like Carpaccio di Wagyu and Gnocchi al Nero (squid ink gnocchi with orange zest, served with calamari, sea urchin, and roasted almonds), and pizzas. The Liberty Station location makes parking a breeze, and there’s also a wide, covered patio with a serene view of a grassy field.

Davanti Enoteca
Davanti Enoteca
Davanti Enoteca

Davanti Enoteca

Little Italy and Carmel ValleyStraightforward presentations of rustic Italian fare make this Chicago import right at home in San Diego, but prepare yourself mentally and emotionally to eat unseemly amounts of carbs and cheese at Davanti Enoteca. Start with shared plates like the egg truffle toast with fontina and asparagus; roasted tomato with pesto, burrata, and toast; and an order of focaccia di Recco with honeycomb. Then, move on to cacio e pepe (spaghetti swirled with pecorino cheese and black pepper) or mascarpone polenta with ragu. There’s also excellent goat cheese cheesecake with salted caramel drizzle, but it’s so huge, you should probably get it to go. This cozy spot is suitable for everything from a quick bite and a cocktail after work to a full-blown family dinner where everyone, including the dog, is invited (both locations have a pet-friendly patio).

Cucina Enoteca
Cucina Enoteca
Cucina Enoteca

Cucina Urbana, Cucina Enoteca, and Cucina Sorella

Del Mar, Bankers Hill, KensingtonVisiting this trio for a meal is a must for any San Diegan serious about good food. Cucina Urbana, Enoteca, and Sorella have the same modern-yet-chic decor, with eye-catching elements like pillars clad in colorful reclaimed wood or antler chandeliers. Go for the fried squash blossoms stuffed with herbed ricotta, basil pesto, and lemon aioli (as a shared app) and whatever pizza tempts you the most. Cucina Sorella, the newest outpost in Kensington, also has a large outdoor patio, a small wine and food shop, and a variety of killer pastas — the gnocchetti sardi with spicy pork sausage, broccoli rabe, tomato and sage brown butter is a winner. Got a sweet tooth? You’ll want to reserve room for something like ricotta zeppole or dark chocolate budino.

KYLE HALL/THRILLIST
KYLE HALL/THRILLIST
KYLE HALL/THRILLIST

Buona Forchetta

South ParkThis favorite among neighborhood locals (and not-so-locals) churns out top-notch thin-crust, Neapolitan-style pies. The 35 different pizzas on offer — mostly with proper, Italian names — range from margherita (the gold standard upon which any pizzeria can be measured), to pies topped with shrimp, salmon, speck, and even fried eggplant. The small dining area can get crowded, but pizzas cook in minutes, so it’s rare to have to wait very long once you’re seated. Nab yourself a red pie, a white pie, and an order of ravioli. And though it’s known for pizza, the pasta here is no slouch. Finish it off with some of the tiramisu — it’s so tasty that you’d be crazy not to order one per person.Sign up here for our daily San Diego email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun in town.

Erin Jackson is a San Diego-based food writer and photographer who loves sharing her latest finds. If you enjoy food and cat photos, by all means, follow her on Instagram.

San Diego

How to Celebrate Women’s History Month in San Diego

Check out female-led dance programs, pop up markets, beer dinners, and more events this March.

Photo by Bianca Quirino Photography l Courtesy of Simplemente Chingona
Photo by Bianca Quirino Photography l Courtesy of Simplemente Chingona
Photo by Bianca Quirino Photography l Courtesy of Simplemente Chingona

Women have played a huge part shaping San Diego into the city it is today. In celebration of Women’s History Month, there are a variety of events across the city that commemorate women’s contributions to our community and culture. Home to the Women’s Museum of California, which hosts events throughout the year, be sure to check out all the ways to support and honor women this month. From art exhibits to dance performances, pop-up markets and yoga, check out the best events to celebrate Women’s History Month in San Diego:

Photo courtesy of The San Diego Museum of Art
Photo courtesy of The San Diego Museum of Art
Photo courtesy of The San Diego Museum of Art

Discover works from overlooked women artists

Ongoing through November 7, 2023
Balboa Park
The San Diego Museum of Art currently has 20 modern and contemporary works of art on display from women who unjustly didn’t receive the same amount of fame as their male contemporaries. The museum’s Modern Women exhibit is your chance to see work from artists like Elaine de Kooning and Lee Krasner, who were overshadowed by artist husbands Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock but whose work has long deserved its own moment in the spotlight. The collection showcases pieces that range from acrylic paintings to photography, inviting us into an untapped artistic sphere.
Cost: $20

Practice Sun Salutations while supporting a good cause

Saturday, March 4, 10 am to 11 am
Pacific Beach
Make a difference in the lives of teen girls of colour while taking a yoga class at Kate Sessions Park. Organized by local nonprofit One Love Movement, all donations for the event go towards college scholarships for girls of the DETOUR F.A.N.C.Y. Expo & Leadership Academy, a mentorship program that promotes equity and inclusion in higher education for girls of colour. All while enjoying stunning views of Mission Bay.
Cost: Donation-based

Photo by Bianca Quirino Photography l Courtesy of Simplemente Chingona
Photo by Bianca Quirino Photography l Courtesy of Simplemente Chingona
Photo by Bianca Quirino Photography l Courtesy of Simplemente Chingona

Shop local women-owned businesses

Sunday, March 5, 1 pm to 5 pm
Middletown
What better way to celebrate the women in your community than by supporting their local businesses? The Women’s History Month Market, located in the FEMX Quarters venue, is a pop up market you don’t want to miss. The market will feature over 35 vendors from women artisans and you’ll find uniquely crafted sunglasses, jewellery, clothing, and more. The family-friendly (and pet-friendly) event will also include food and music.
Cost: Free

Drink beer crafted by female brewers on International Women’s Day

Wednesday, March 8, 6:30 pm to 10:00 pm
Escondido
Women were the original brewers of ale, after all, so it only makes sense to honour our past and present beer connoisseurs with dinner and brews. Located at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens, Stone International Women’s Day Beer Dinner features three courses, each paired with a tasty beer specially brewed by a team of women at Stone Brewery. The event is part of a larger global celebration for International Women’s Day, where brewers all over the world brew a speciality beer that supports The Pink Boots Society, a non profit that empowers women and non-binary people in the beer industry through scholarships and education. Grab your tickets while you can! 21+
Cost: $50-$70

Attend an exhibition celebrating female and non-binary artists

Saturday, March 11, 5:00 pm
Barrio Logan
Head over to the entertainment and community venue Corazon del Barrio and show your support to female and non-binary artists, whose art and music will be featured in the Diosa Art Show. Around 40 artists are on the bill at this all-ages event.
Cost: Free

Drink some pints for the pups

Saturday, March 11, 12 pm to 4 pm
Carmel Mountain
If you need another excuse to down some brews, Second Chance Beer Company is hosting its first ever Ladies & Pups Market for Women’s History Month. The brewery, which holds various events throughout the year, donates a percentage of its sales to animal rescue organizations in California and Arizona. The dog-friendly market will include pop ups from women-owned businesses such as Bold Bouquet, Wet Nose Pottery, and No, You Sit! Treats. For the occasion, Second Chance will serve Fistful of Gummies – Berry Edition, a rendition of their fruited sour beer created in collaboration with Pink Boots Society, an organization that supports women and non-binary individuals in the beer industry.
Cost: Free

Photo courtesy of Women's Museum of California
Photo courtesy of Women’s Museum of California
Photo courtesy of Women’s Museum of California

Attend a ceremony at the Women’s Museum of California

Saturday, March 18, 11 am to 1 pm
Rolando
Perhaps San Diego’s largest Women’s History Month event, the San Diego County Women’s Hall of Fame recognizes local women for their achievements in the community. The annual event, which takes place at Joan B. Kroc Theatre, is a project of the Women’s Museum of California, a museum dedicated to educating the public about women’s contributions through history with exhibits, programs, and events. Over 100 women have been inducted into the Women’s Hall of Fame since the program was founded in 2001, and this year’s class includes notable women like activist Norma Ch√°vez-Peterson and Chula Vista Mayor Mary Casillas Salas. The event includes a VIP brunch followed by the Induction Ceremony. Be sure to purchase tickets early to secure your spot.
Cost: $20-$150

Join a community of local women and get inspired

Monday, March 20, 5 pm to 7:30 pm
Miramar
The Women’s Speaker Series at Alesmith Brewing Company is a monthly community gathering where local women come together to support one another in achieving professional and personal goals. The event includes a social hour followed by a selected speaker. For this month, the Women’s Speaker Series features career coach and small business owner Laura Bashore, who will share her insight on how you can advance your career or business. Make sure to reserve your spot before attending!
Cost: Free

Come hear about the roles San Diego women played during World War II

Tuesday, March 21, 1 pm to 3 pm
Mission Valley
In the early 20th century, many women were not allowed or expected to be the breadwinners for their households, but things suddenly changed with the United States’ entry into World War II. Here’s your chance to learn about the real experiences of women who lived through WWll and how they navigated through it all. Presented by Oasis San Diego, head over to Mission Valley Library to attend this in-person event.
Cost: Free

Photo by Carly Topazio l Courtesy of The Rosin Box Project
Photo by Carly Topazio l Courtesy of The Rosin Box Project
Photo by Carly Topazio l Courtesy of The Rosin Box Project

Attend a ballet program choreographed entirely by women

Thursday, March 23 ‚Äď Saturday, March 25 & Monday, March 27, 7:30 pm
Liberty Station
Experience not one but three world premiere ballet performances at The Rosin Box Project, a contemporary ballet company that works to redefine the concept of dance and how it’s experienced for both artists and audiences. To coincide with Women’s History Month, TRBP is kicking off its 2023 season with Empower, a female-led ballet program choreographed by TRBO Residents Lauren Flower, Bethany Green, and Carly Topazio. The program, which takes place at Light Box Theater, offers a fresh take on dance by pushing the boundaries of traditional ballet. Your ticket includes a post-show reception.
Cost: $45

Hear music by a little-known female early 20th-century composer

Friday, March 24, 6:30 pm to 7:45 pm
Balboa Park
While you may not be familiar with composer Alice Barnett Stevenson, she played an integral part in San Diego’s music scene during the early 1900s. Stevenson was an active member of various music organizations at the time, and she composed art songs for voice and piano and performed at schools all over the country. Her home became a hub for local recitals from visiting musicians, and was also where the San Diego Symphony was founded. This month, you can hear her compositions performed live for the first time in nearly 100 years at the San Diego History Center. Selected works by Stevenson will be performed by musical scholar Katina Mitchell and pianist Yewon Lee. Be sure to reserve tickets ahead of time.
Cost: $25-$40

Listen to Black San Diego women discuss important community issues

Saturday, March 25, 12 pm to 4 pm
Valencia Park
In celebration of Women’s History Month, the Friends of Malcolm X Library are hosting Ain’t I a Woman, an event featuring Black women who will be speaking about their professions and discussing the challenges faced within the workplace and the community while offering suggestions on how to further enhance and embrace equality. The event includes a Q&A panel discussion, door prizes, free raffles, as well as music, poetry, and dance. Seating is limited so be sure to reserve your spot early.
Cost: Free event. Lunch purchase is $15.

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Michelle Harris¬†is an Editorial Assistant at Thrillist. Over the years her writing has also appeared in¬†Atlas Obscura,¬†Mental Floss, and¬†Audubon Magazine. When she’s not busy typing, she enjoys hiking, road trips, and cooking vegan food.

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