The Best Italian Restaurants in San Diego

September 11, 2015

If you’re looking for uniquely authentic Italian food, this directory will help you find the best Italian restaurants in San Diego by the neighborhoods they are found in.

San Diego is a melting pot of ethnicities, tastes, colors, and neighborhoods. You know you can find food worth talking about for years and trips to come--you just need to know where to look. I’m a huge fan of food, culture and the people behind each dish and restaurant, and the overall experience available. It’s such a big part of travel.

Little Italy

Situated on the Northwest side of Downtown, this former Italian fishing neighborhood was home to thousands of Italians during the height of the tuna fishing industry which ended in the late 1960s. Since then, the I-5 freeway was built, dissecting the neighborhood and breaking up the community. Since the early 2000s, however, the area has seen a huge rebirth, and now there are many new Italian restaurants with some classic favorites. These are my favorites in the area:

Fresh tagliatelle and Bencotto sauce Photo Credit: Bencotto/Facebook

Bencotto - This restaurant is owned by a young, Italian couple who have a passion for the traditional way of cooking food: using high quality ingredients and producing dishes that are simple, yet delicious. The interior of the restaurant has a very modern look and feel, which parallels perfectly with Guido and Valentina’s contemporary lifestyle.

Po Pazzo - As the area’s only steak house, this neighborhood favorite features exceptional dishes like the Sicilian Style Bone-in Ribeye, and any steak can be prepared “Sinatra style,”which means that it comes with a killer sauce of sautéed tomatoes, mushrooms, and onions. Order an appetizer and a pasta to share before the main event, which is any of the steaks at Po Pazzo.


Just across the San Diego Bay sits San Diego’s pseudo-island, which is home to the Navy Base, million dollar homes and views, a huge beach, and The Hotel Del Coronado--San Diego’s iconic Victorian beachside resort. While the dining scene is small, there is a great Italian spot you must check out!

Primavera Ristorante - Chef Pepe Vega brings flavors from Northern Italy to sunny

Vongole Bordelaise
Photo Credit: Primavera Ristorante

Coronado. This fine dining establishment has been a classic favorite in the neighborhood for years, and is known for their Osso Bucco dish. Everything is fresh, flavorful, and the romantic ambiance is perfect for a celebratory dinner of any type.


This area is just up the hill from Downtown San Diego and Balboa Park, which is a great area for dinner after a day of exploration at the museums at the Park or the San Diego Zoo.

Cotoletta alla Parmegiana
Photo Credit: Piacere Mio/Facebook

Arrivederci - This restaurant is small, intimate, and will automatically make you feel as if you’ve teleported to Italy. Most of the servers have Italian accents, and the tables are closely situated. It’s not too fancyor formal, so this place is perfect for a family dinner. The black linguini (squid ink linguini) with seafood and cream sauce is incredible!

South Park

Just east of Downtown and Balboa Park, you’ll find a quaint residential area that is home to many young families, beer lovers, and food aficionados. That’s why this area is starting to get some recognition for their new restaurants.

Pizza Margherita Photo Credit: Buona Forchetta/Facebook

Piacere Mio - This authentic Italian restaurant has some incredible dishes at reasonable prices. The ambiance is cozy, and it feels as though someone’s Italian grandmother is in the kitchen whipping up all of the delicious masterpieces served. This restaurants lets you be the chef, allowing you to choose your favorite pasta and pair it with your favorite sauce.

Buona Forchetta - This adorable pizzeria has recently been attracting crowds, so don’t come here expecting to be seated right away. Their pizza dough is incredibly flakey and light, and their specialty daily pasta is always on point. They have a large dog-friendly patio (total bonus for when traveling with pets), and a small dining room inside. One thing to note is that they do not take reservations, so make sure to come prepared to wait up to an hour.

Every time I write about the best San Diego restaurants, I get a crazy craving to go out and eat!  Now that I’ve refreshed my memory for the best restaurants, I’ve got some decisions to make. No more talking for this girl, and no more reading for you.  Let’s go eat! Buon Appetito! Ciao!

Written By Ashley


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