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Italian San Diego


I'm sure this has been done to death but I'm in search of a nice American-Italian place to get some pasta or a steak or both and some wine with the family and kids, etc.

What are people's favorites? I'm not looking for too cheap or too expensive either, like a nice family style Italian place that we may have overlooked. Jersey style.

Probably not to be found in "Little Italy."

Thanks CHOW, you do me right.


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  1. Barolo in Renaissance Center by UTC.

    The Godfather in Kearny Mesa. Haven't been there in years, though.

    Lorna's in UTC/Clairemont is also a decent mid-scale Italian restaurant.

    Gemelli's (part of the Busallachi clan) in Banker's Hill does a very acceptable Bolognese and Puttanesca, but their entrees I've tried have been disappointing (esp. their fish), they may do an acceptable steak, but that's one entree I haven't tried. When we go now, we order Bolognese/Puttanesca/Finnochio salad and that's pretty much it.

    Aside from Gemelli's, I haven't been impressed with other Busallachi clan restaurants, especially recently.

    Pernicano's in Scripps Ranch used to be decent, but I haven't been in decades.

    3 Replies
    1. re: mikec

      Thanks for the list, it looks great.

      I think the Godfather looks just about right. Very NJ. Is it kid-friendly?

      I agree with the Busalacchi opinion too.

      1. re: stangoldsmith

        "I think the Godfather looks just about right. Very NJ. Is it kid-friendly?"

        My feeling from being in the place (also a few years back) is that kids would be welcome if they were seen but not heard. :)

        1. re: RB Hound

          I was there a few years ago with my fairly young cousins (they were about 9 and 7, I think) and RB Hound's feeling is spot-on. The kids were well behaved, but I remember something that had to do with the fried zucchini appetizer... I think the kids were just eating it messily. The server gave them the stink-eye.

          It's not kid-friendly, but not kid-unfriendly, either. Personally, I would rather go somewhere where you didn't feel you had to keep shushing the kids or making sure they were eating neatly, etc.

    2. Frankie's Italian Deli (on the southwest corner of Mira Mesa Blvd and Black Mountain Rd) is a pretty good Mom-and-Pop kinda place. Very kid friendly- in fact, you'll probably meet one of the grandkids when you're there. My parents are from New Jersey (as am I, technically speaking), and they love the place.

      Fillipi's Restaurants, with all their faults, would fit the bill as well. They're not the best place in the world, but they are family friendly, not too expensive/too cheap, with decent food.

      I second the Godfather, though that's more of a special occasion kind of a place. Very dark, very quiet, with really good food.

        1. re: menuinprogress

          This place always looks unwelcoming from the outside. What's it like in there?

          1. re: dustchick

            It is a friendly, family-run operation. They've been there forever.

        2. I recently had a great dinner at the Godfather, I would not classify it as kid friendly however. It is not kid-unfriendly, jsut not kid oriented.

          Bacci on Morena is great and pricey., on the more formal side. I love their stuffed clams.

          Olde Triste can be good, men must have a jacket- great veal.

          On the less expensive side, and child oriented is the very informal DeMilles on Adams Ave.

          1 Reply
          1. re: normalheightsfoodie

            comment on Old Trieste..I reviewed it a month or so ago.. no jackets anymore.. a guy was there in jeans and a Hawaiian shirt...

          2. Trattoria Antica in La Mesa might fit the bill.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Alice Q

              One place that I do not see mentioned much here (or maybe I'm the only one who likes it) is Trattoria Romantica in La Jolla Shores. I am not quite sure what qualifies as "New Jersey" Italian, but if that is something like FIllipes, then this might not fit the bill because I get the sense that itis more Italian Italian food as opposed to American Italian. Regardless, everyone we have taken there loves it. The pumpkin ravioli special a few weeks ago was fantastic. Not exactly kid friendly, but it seems to be family run and I'm sure kids would be welcome.

              1. re: pooch

                Love this place.. I was just thinking what the heck is the name!!! Would fit the occasion

            2. For casual, I recommend Mona Lisa (only restaurant in Little Italy I frequent).
              For more formal, agree with above poster about Baci--possibly best Italian restaurant in SD.

              1. hmmm

                Thanks for the great responses, I think several are better left for babysitting nights though, on the rare occasion that happens.

                Frankie's may sound like an option. Do they have wine?

                Has anyone tried Paesano on 30th in North Park? I assume it's a no-go just because for no real reason, but it's in my hood.

                5 Replies
                1. re: stangoldsmith

                  Have not tried Paesano...have been, however, to Apertivo in N. Park and have enjoyed it very much.

                  1. re: stangoldsmith

                    For a kind of neighborhood red-checked tablecloth, red sauce kindof place, there are better in the same neighborhood than Paesano's, though Paesano's isn't bad. Mazzeta's by Vagabond on 30th. Venice Pizza on El Cajon Blvd just East of 805. The Italian restaurant on El Cajon Blvd between 805 & 30th (De Luca's?). Personally, I think those three are better than DeMille's, but DeMille's has its following. For takeout pizza, I usually opt for Mazetta's.

                        1. re: stangoldsmith

                          We have been to Paesano's many times, it is a great place to go with familiy's. They have along table in the back that can accomodate many people. Food has always been good.

                          It is similar in style to Demilles.

                          We get a combo of pizza and pasta.

                        2. I second Marino’s in PB (very kid friendly...the young granddaughter helps Grandmama Marino. You might also try Mama Mia’s in PB. Both are family owned and operated.

                          1. Having grown up in eastern Pennsylvania, on the Delaware River, I encourage you to leave your fond memories of New Jersey Italian along the Atlantic Coast. The food is not nearly as good as the memories. Who wants to eat heavily breaded greasy veal covered with cheese and a canned red sauce; or hard meat balls sitting on over done spaghetti? New Jersey Italian food is closer to Chef Boyardee than it is to true Italian cuisine, from any of the various regions in Italy. Some of the recommendations listed here are as close to Roman cuisine as the Olive Garden is to Italian food.
                            For very good Italian food, that is a decent value (you and your family can't go wrong with an excellent dish of ravioli) and made with excellent ingredients and executed by competent staff, try one of these three restaurants. They all have wood-burning ovens (required for authentic preparation), are all family friendly, and take reservations. Interestingly, they each are part of larger restaurant operations.
                            Il Fornaio in Del Mar. This crowd pleaser is reliable and has great food. Their seasonal menus usually reflect a certain region in Italy (Piemonte, Lombardia, Umbria).
                            Second, Prego in Mission Valley. This lovely restaurant with the exposed kitchen prepares wonderful roasted and grilled meats, poultry, and fish. The salads and service are excellent .
                            Finally, Venice, a relatively new restaurant located where Tutte Mare ( a sister restaurant of Prego) was. The Italian owners have an award winning restaurant in Denver. I have eaten here a few times and have enjoyed the authentic dishes.
                            Stay away from the old-school Italian (Godfather,Old Trieste), and expose your kids to real cuisine.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Mr. Darcy

                              For old school Italian in Encinitas try Borrelli's Pizza and Italian Food. Good quality, quanity and reasonable. No fru..fru here.