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New Gelato in Little Italy, San Diego: Pappa Lecco

With all the people that have been in during the first ten days of business, I'm surprised that I need to be the first to post a recommendation for this "gelato lounge", as it calls itself. It's at the corner of State and Cedar, a few blocks away from Extraordinary Desserts, just a bit outside of Little Italy (1602 State St, 619.238.4590). We were there for the fourth day in a row tonight.

So far we've had:
The Tramonto (fruits, prosciutto, greens)
The Piatto del Poeta (greens, smoked salmon, shrimp, cucumber)
Nonno Amedeo's salad (greens, meats)
The Contadino (cheeses, pears, carrots, walnuts, greens)
single espresso
an affogato with chocolate ice cream
the scecherato
gelatos: chocolate, vanilla, hazelnut, coconut, caramel, bacio, stracciatella, the house "pappa lecco" (chocolate, chocolate chips, amaretto, biscotti pieces)

We recommend all of these. Not being espresso aficionados we can't offer a very informed opinion. They use Danesi, but you can see the care that the owner Francesco and his brother put into every drink and food item they prepare (with a third brother, their three other shops are all in Pisa). The scecherato was beautiful and wonderful, perfect really (I'm using what seems to be Google's preferred spelling--a double espresso, sweetened, iced and shaken vigorously, served in a martini glass).

I can't say that this is the best gelato I've ever tasted, maybe not even the best in San Diego (I've always recommended nearby Caffe Italia, which lacks the flavors, hours and charm of Pappa Lecco, but I haven't been in in a while), but I might grow to change my mind. It's hard not to fall in love with the place upon first entering, and with Francesco himself, particularly if one is female. During our visits, at least ten people must have been making return trips with friends in tow, and this in the first ten days of business, many speaking Italian with Francesco and his staff.

The best part though, the thing that makes it into the pantheon of tastes I will always remember, is the special gelato served with some of the cold plates. Orange/carrot/basil. If Francesco ever needs business, he need only walk around town with a container and some spoons, handing out tastes. It was only served to us on our first trip, not the subsequent two (we didn't ask), so ask first so you're not disappointed.

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  1. Do they have a dinner menu of sorts?

    6 Replies
    1. re: sdnativa

      Perhaps too light to be called dinner by some, but just right for others... Tried to upload a 1 mb pdf I have, but it didn't take. I'll see if I can post it somewhere else. Anyway, they have about 15 "cold plates" and 5-10 panini. Haven't had any of the panini, but they've had some great bread with the plates. You can probably guess the ingredients. Those that were unfamiliar to me were: Sedano, Ciliegini tomatoes, "belga salad", and the one less than common panino--bresaola, arugola, tomato, tonnata sauce.

      Like I said, they're light, but that makes you feel less guilty about some of their gelati, pastries, etc...

      1. re: kimxchris

        Sandwiches/salads perhaps? I am thinking of trying it tonight.

        1. re: kimxchris

          ciliegini = "little cherries." They're cherry tomatoes.

            1. re: kimxchris

              This place sounds really nice. One more question - do they serve alcohol? I know its a gelateria but if they also serve light food maybe they have a few wines too? Its a lot to ask, I know!

          1. Fantastic - a new place within walking distance of my office - I will definitely have to check it out!

            1. Just got back....like the location off the main drag. Has more of a neighborhood and intimate feel than many of the touristy and faux Italian restaurants that dot India Street. Had the panino salame--very tastey. Perfect for a light lunch or snack. Followed up with an espresso and gelato....They do not have a liquor license (nor beer/wine). They are open for breakfast.

              3 Replies
              1. re: El Chevere

                You liked the panini, but come one, dessert is a girls best friend. How was the gelato?

                1. re: DiningDiva

                  There are 2 other things that I thought was a girls best friend....anyhoo, I liked the gelato--it was a combination of chocolate and pistacchio....pretty tastey...their cannoli's look amazing. Had I not blown off the gym 2 of the past 3 days, I would have given that a shot as well....looks like the cannoli's they serve at Baci, which is THE best cannoli outside of NY I have had...will have to let you know.

                  1. re: El Chevere

                    Well you have more willpower than I my friend. I have blown off the gym for the past two months, and I still managed to power down a two flavor cup and a "salad" consisting mostly of goat cheese and prosciutto. Will have to go easy on dinner! My dogs are howling for a walk, so maybe I'll make up for it a little.

                    The gelato is fantastic. Very smooth and creamy and intensely flavorful. I had their signature pappa lecco flavor mentioned above - chocolate/coffee/amaretto etc., and caramel. I also sampled the limone, which is fantastic. The caramel was a bit sweeter than I might have liked. I was pleased and it's only a short skip from my office - just far enough not to be dangerous. We must have just missed each other actually, because I was there at about 1 PM!

              2. I finally made it over to Pappa Lecco. It was much smaller than I expected but they very nicely done and has clearly become a neighborhood favorite judging by the stroller brigade seated out front. The gelato was excellent. In my opinion much better to GV. It had a smoother, richer, and more intense flavor than anything I've tasted at GV. The pistacio was especially amazing. And I like the little cups in which the gelato is served. My only one complaint about the gelato is the relatively skimpy servings for the price. Talking about price, at around $11 per salad, they also seemed pricy so we didn't try any, but will definately go back for the gelato.