22 Secrets About San Diego’s Little Italy Neighborhood

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As one of the oldest and most iconic historical areas of San Diego, Little Italy has come a long way since its origins as a fishing community for Italian immigrants. And, in celebration it being 15 years since the installation of the historic Little Italy Landmark sign, I’ve updated this post from just 8 secrets to 22.

San Diego’s Little Italy has grown to cover over 48-square-blocks; making it the largest Little Italy in the nation. And, our Little Italy is ranked the top Little Italy neighborhood in the nation thanks to the leadership of the non-profit organization, the Little Italy Association—the only district management of its kind in any cultural neighborhood in the United States.

Here are some fun facts that you may not know about this popular San Diego attraction and things to look for during your next visit.

1. Hidden Ring in Sidewalk on India Street

Right outside Filippi’s Pizza Grotto, next to the painted electrical box on India Street, try to spot the ring that’s imprinted in the sidewalk.

2. Love at First Sight Tile

Step into Café Zucchero on India Street and take a glance on the floor in front of the registry to see the engraved tile that a Little Italy local installed to commemorate where he met his wife.

3. Recipe Tables at Amici Park

Take a blank sheet of paper and a pencil to Amici Park and rub the freestanding table sculptures that have raised text recipes on them.

4. San Diego Macaroni Factory

Right outside of Hyde Edwards Salon, where the historic San Diego Macaroni Factory stood, is a piece of original sidewalk that marked the location of this historic Little Italy business.

5. Antique Sausage Maker

At Mimmo’s Italian Village, right on its front patio, spot the large original sausage stuffer that Mimmo, himself, used to make the family’s sausage.

6. San Diego Firehouse Museum

In July of 2015, the Little Italy Fire Station celebrated 100 years and earned historic status; it’s also the first fire station in all of downtown.

7. Mama Filippi’s House

One of the most loved pizza spots in all of San Diego, Filippi’s Pizza Grotto, is the original storefront for this famous pizzeria and just behind the storefront is where Mama Filippi lived.

8. Oldest House in the Hood

Built in 1888, stands the oldest house in Little Italy; now known as M Winehouse, take a look and enjoy a glass of wine while you do!

9. Waterfront Bar

The Waterfront Bar tavern is claimed to be the oldest in San Diego, originally the water front came up to the bar and was a common place for boat captains and fisherman to meet after work.

10. Our Lady of the Rosary Church Mural

The church of Little Italy was founded by Father Rabagliati, whose face is actually included in one of the nationally recognized murals (Hint: On the left side, near the alter).

11. Bigger Little Italy?

Before 1972, the Little Italy neighborhood stretched all the way to Balboa Park, until the I-5 freeway development  separated the neighborhood and displaced thousands of Italian families.

12. Hideaway at Davanti Enoteca

Ask for table 80, you have to have at least 8-10 friends to do so, and hideaway in the restaurant’s secret dining room.

13. Cow by Bear

Make a reservation for a pop-up surprise dinner in Little Italy that dishes out a 5-course meal cooked and prepared by a chef in a bear costume!

14. Little Italy Landmark Sign

The 15-year-old sign that’s celebrating its birthday at San Diego’s Little Italy’s 21st annual FESTA! on October 11, was constructed to pay tribute to the immigrant neighborhood—take a look at the mosaic tile work on each side of the street that tells a story about how this neighborhood is tied to the bay, the church and the Italian homeland

15. Trees are planted on the sidewalks approximately 10 walking strides apart

This is intended to soften the urban neighborhood and create a nice canopy of shade and color over the sidewalk.

16. Trees and flowers are expertly chosen to mirror the seasons

Have you ever noticed the falling leaves from the purposefully-chosen deciduous trees in Little Italy around September, the tulips in the spring or poinsettias in December? Little Italy Association’s Ornamental Landscapers make sure to create a feeling of seasonality in the community by changing out flowers each month.

17. Watch your step for age-old Italian sayings, recipes and proverbs.

From Amici Park to India Street along W. Date Street, bronze plaques with red and white checked borders showcase Italian proverbs and quotes from long standing businesses.

18. Stories of Little Italy’s past are immortalized in granite.

When strolling throughout Little Italy, don’t just stop and smell the roses, stop and read the rich history of Little Italy and the families that help mold it into what you see today.

19.  Twinkle, twinkle! Little Italy’s signature string lights change out for the holidays.

White is Little Italy’s signature strand, multicolor appears during the holiday season and red sparkles during February for Valentine’s Day and American Heart Month.

20. Take a seat… it’s intentional.

Little Italy purposefully has dozens of outdoor seating areas with umbrellas and piazzas, encouraging residents and visitors to sit, enjoy their cappuccino and take a few deep breathes as they relax and unwind in the San Diego neighborhood.

21. It’s the perfect place for exercise.

Little Italy has created a marked one-mile walking loop right in the middle of the neighborhood that does not cross any major intersections. It’s perfect for a guided exploration of this bellisimo place by the sea!

22.  History can be in the palm of your hand.

Be sure to download the “San Diego’s Little Italy” mobile application, available on the iTunes and GooglePlay, for a historic tour that allows you to compare historic photos in the application to what you could be standing in front of.

What do you love about Little Italy?

Updated: Learn 22 cool things about San Diego's Little Italy... the largest Little Italy in the nation!

Top photo credit: Luna Photo

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7 Comments

  1. John
    September 30, 2015 at 10:07 pm — Reply

    I agree, Cow by Bear is amazing!!! Best meal and dining experience I’ve ever had! Bear is awesome! A+++++

    • October 1, 2015 at 6:55 am — Reply

      That’s so funny. I just got a press release from them in my inbox and was like, “a bear?” 🙂

  2. August 15, 2015 at 12:42 pm — Reply

    Such a beautiful neighborhood. So happy to call it home in SD!

    • August 17, 2015 at 8:43 pm — Reply

      It sure is. Thanks for taking the time to read!

  3. Linda
    August 14, 2015 at 3:07 pm — Reply

    I love little Italy San Diego I have been volunteering there for over 20yrs now on all the street festivals and it is a blast I wish I still lived there, but I am trying to come back, It is just a great part of my heritage without going to Italy or Sicily a lot cheaper. molto bello e ottimo cibo ciao Linda

  4. June 15, 2015 at 9:21 pm — Reply

    So happy I found this post. Heading to San Diego in a week and have been wanting to explore more of Little Italy. I will be trying out that app! Thanks for the recommendations.

  5. June 12, 2014 at 10:22 am — Reply

    I love the food in Little Italy!

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