I’m delighted when I don’t have to leave the island for a day or two, but I’ve met people who can go weeks without ever getting in their car. For many, something has to be “bridgeworthy” to consider going somewhere off the island. I discovered one such destination that is worth the trek ~ The Little Italy Food Hall. It’s actually accessible by ferry and best accessed that way, due to difficult parking in the area (then it’s a one mile walk or pedicab ride from Broadway Pier).
Located off the Piazza della Famiglia, at 550 W. Date Street, between India and Columbia, this gastronomic delight just opened on July 12, with nearly 5,000-square-feet of six new and familiar food options, indoor communal seating and outdoor tables with live entertainment.
Judging by the lines out the door, Not Not Tacos, the first eatery by Sam Zien, aka Sam the Cooking Guy, is one of the more popular of the food options. Zien has come a long way since I interviewed him in 2002, shortly after he left corporate America for the cooking world. Here his emphasis is on unique tacos piled high on homemade flour tortillas. We tried the delicious and a bit spicy vegetarian mashed potato taco which was topped with sour cream, Cholula sauce, green onion, and crushed potato chips for crunch. Another vegetarian option is Sam’s favorite curried egg salad. Izzy’s pastrami, Sam’s meatloaf, Sunday dinner, and Korean short rib tacos are a meat lover’s delight. Asian salmon and Kelly’s shrimp will satisfy pescetarians.
Mein St. Asian Kitchen is a spinoff of Zen Modern Asian Bistro in Carmel Mountain Ranch. The Pan-Asian menu includes Asian delicacies, with slow-braised beef noodle soup, and delicious salt and pepper chicken wings, which were meaty and perfectly seasoned with a secret spice blend by Chef Kenny. My culinary friend praised the beef ramen as robust, with flavorful meats and vegetables.
Ambrogio15 is a Milan-style pizzeria, the second location for friends, Luca, Giacomo and Andrea, from Milan, who decided in their local pizzeria in Milan to bring the Milano style of pizza to San Diego; first to Pacific Beach and now Little Italy. With a traditional pizza oven to duplicate its signature thin-crusted regular, whole wheat and gluten-free crusts, they use authentic Italian ingredients and also serve a variety of salads and Italian cured meats and cheeses.
Single Fin Kitchen from Chef Antonio Quindere, a sushi chef who attended culinary school in Peru and worked with Nobu Matsuhisa. Offerings include must-try Peruvian ceviche with a citrus flair and a selection of sashimi, corn dust rice bowls, and Japanese hand rolls filled with spicy tuna, salmon skin and a variety of unique ingredients. Enjoy delectable local catch with global flavors in all their dishes.
Wicked Maine Lobster started at Liberty Public Market and now comes to Little Italy serving up steaming bowls of clam chowder, lobster mac and cheese, fried shrimp, full belly clam baskets, crab rolls and other New England specialties. They are best known for their lobster rolls and fish and chips. With the tagline “From our shore to your door,” they strive to bring the best Maine lobsters to Southern California.
Roast Meat & Sandwich Shop offers fresh, healthy options featuring whole roast chicken, prime rib, porchetta-stuffed sandwiches, bowls, superfood salads, their popular meat balls and a variety of sides. Their best seller is the eight-hour, slow roasted prime rib and they recommend the roasted veggies and potatoes as a complement. The customer next to me swore by the Kale Caesar Salad and said it was a ‘must try’ dish.
The central space hub is the Little Italy Food Hall Bar featuring drinks with an interesting twist on Italian cocktails, including Bellinis and Negronis, with craft beer and an array of wines. My friends found the staff to be pleasant and knowledgeable, even amidst the busy atmosphere.
Across the Piazza, filled with red tables, chairs and umbrellas, is Frost Me, which opened three months ago and features a delectable selection of pastries, cupcakes, meat and cheese boards, coffee, tea, beer and wine. It’s hard to choose from the vast array of tempting cupcake flavors with a range of gluten free and vegan treats as well, which are all baked on-site. They are the only place in San Diego that brews Ritual Coffee, which is a San Francisco favorite. Don’t miss the delightful patio where you can relax and enjoy your indulgences. Monday night caters to dog lovers by offering ‘Dog Beer’ made of bone broth, apple cider vinegar and peanut butter, created especially for Fido.
Little Italy’s Food Hall is open Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. It is a partnership between the Grain & Grit Collective hospitality group and H.G. Fenton Company. It’s a hip venue with fast service and food in a relaxing atmosphere, just a short jaunt from here.
Happy Hour is a highlight Mondays through Fridays from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., and stay tuned for their live cooking demonstration schedule. The first demo showcases easy summer appetizer and cocktails with Sam, the Cooking Guy, on August 16, from 5pm to 6pm.
Most everyone knows that the Little Italy Farmers’ Market on Saturday mornings is one of, if not the, best in San Diego County. July 18 brought another new addition to the Little Italy Piazza with the start of the Wednesday Farmers’ Market from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., created to be a destination “where the chefs” and those in the know shop mid-week. Shoppers can expect the same quality in a smaller setting while enjoying live entertainment, adding an authentic ambiance to their produce, meat, fish, and other shopping.