This Beautiful San Diego Destination Will Make You Feel Like You Teleported To Italy

In case you haven't heard, San Diego is no longer living in the shadow of its glitzier neighbor along the California coast, Los Angeles. Over the past decade, it has regularly ranked as one of the coolest cities in America, and it is regarded as one of the best places to live in the nation. And why not? We can talk about the climate, beaches, and wonderful nearby national parks, but it is also a lively town with diverse cultural events to enjoy, from the world-famous Comic-Con to the San Diego Black Film Festival. That's before you take into account the food, with a vibrant culinary scene that attracts some of America's top celebrity chefs. Even within San Diego's growing reputation as one of the best places to eat, Little Italy has become a go-to district for foodies.

Over 6,000 miles from the Old Country, the area around San Diego has been a home from home for Italian-Americans for over 100 years, since thousands of intrepid families settled overlooking San Diego Bay and helped the city thrive and become the "Tuna Capital of the World." With them, they brought their culture, language, passion for sports, and, of course, their cuisine, and downtown San Diego's Little Italy is regarded as one of the best Little Italys around the world by visitors. More than a century later, it is also one of the hippest destinations in the city, known for its exciting cuisine, independent galleries, and buzzing cafe and bar culture.

Little Italy is a foodie paradise

San Diego's Little Italy certainly deserves its glowing reputation as one of the best places in the city for a variety of top-notch eats. With its heritage, it comes as no surprise that there are some quality options if you are searching for a taste of il Bel Paese. Check out Mona Lisa Italian Foods, a family-run restaurant and deli established in 1956 for pizza, classic red-sauce dishes, or one of those very Instagrammable loaded sandwiches. For more modern fare, Bencotto is a sleek and stylish eatery specializing in daily homemade pasta such as squid-ink fettucine with shrimp.

While the district's Italian fare is noteworthy, there are plenty of striking new alternatives that have captured headlines in recent years. Some of them are passion projects for celebrity chefs like Brian Malarkey, whose Herb & Wood focuses on seasonal ingredients for Mediterranean-inspired dishes served in a hip and buzzy space. Juniper & Ivy, set in a plush renovated warehouse, boasts award-winning chefs and Michelin guide recognition for its inventive SoCal cuisine. For a really memorable night out with dinner and cocktails, Kettner Exchange is the brainchild of renowned Head Chef Brian Redzikowski. The only problem with its menu of innovative American dishes is narrowing it down to one or two choices; are you feeling in the mood for curried salmon collar, Szechuan frog legs, or duck meatballs?

Things to see and do in San Diego's Little Italy

As an extension of Little Italy's excellent cuisine, foodies should try to time their visit to the district to coincide with the bi-weekly farmer's market. Covering around six city blocks, the "Mercato" operates on Wednesday and Saturday and features a fantastic range of fresh quality produce and handmade crafts. It is considered one of the best farmer's markets in the United States, and it is cherished by the local community, making it a great place to wander and enjoy the atmosphere, even if you're just browsing. Other focal points for the neighborhood include Amici Park with its bocce courts (a ball game similar to pétanque) and amphitheater, which hosts live bands in the evenings, and Piazza Basilone, a popular outdoor hangout spot dedicated to Little Italy's soldiers who died during conflicts in the 20th Century.

Little Italy also hosts a variety of events throughout the year, many of which have strong ties to the area's Italian heritage. In March, you can enjoy the Little Italy Carnevale, and the Sicilian Festival (in May) is a celebration of music, food, and culture from the Old Country. In the fall, Little Italy Fiesta is the largest Italian festival in the United States outside New York City, featuring over 150 food and craft stalls and three stages of live music, while motorheads won't want to miss the luxury Lamborghini cars that gather for the Bulls of St. Agata Charge in October.