HOME > Chowhound > San Diego >

Any REAL Italian food in San Diego?

hairycover Dec 7, 2008 02:05 PM

Is there any real, authentic Italian food in San Diego. I mean places without the straw wrapped Chianti bottles. Any place that has Chicken Alfredo on the menu isn't Italian, it's Ita-American.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. macdoodle RE: hairycover Dec 7, 2008 02:32 PM

    There was a little place in lemon grove some years back even had the plastic grapes decor.
    Mom and pop could cook! Passed with my east coast taste buds.

    1. e
      Encinitan RE: hairycover Dec 7, 2008 02:48 PM

      Perhaps Old Trieste located near Mission Bay on Morena Bld. It has been around since at least the early 70s when I first arrived in San Diego. I haven't been there since the early 80s. http://www.oldtriesterestaurant.com/H...

      1 Reply
      1. re: Encinitan
        sliim RE: Encinitan Jan 7, 2009 07:05 PM

        Second Old Trieste for that old time Italian - I moved from NY only a year and a half ago and I've pretty much given up on "authentic" Italian in SD. I really miss it. LA is the only place for the real stuff - Mozza for sure!

      2. Beach Chick RE: hairycover Dec 7, 2008 03:12 PM

        Being Italian/Swedish, I am always looking for good Italian than what I make at home and I have found that Baci's on Morena Blvd in Bay Park area is one of the best in SD...

        1. c
          cstr RE: hairycover Dec 7, 2008 04:39 PM

          Compare SD to the East Coast, forgetaaboutit, can't even come close. However, Baci's is an old school Italian/American restaurant, the only thing that bothers me is $30. for chicken parm, the place is very pricey.

          1. j
            JRSD RE: hairycover Dec 7, 2008 07:23 PM

            Antica Trattoria on Lake Murray Blvd @ Baltimore has very good Italian food. I have generally been happier with the Secondi that feature meat vs. the seafood. We have enjoyed most of the pastas that we have had there as well - particularly the gnocchi. There have been other mentions on the board if you search for them.

            Antica Trattoria
            5654 Lake Murray Blvd La, Mesa, CA

            1 Reply
            1. re: JRSD
              mimosa RE: JRSD Dec 7, 2008 07:33 PM

              Second Antica Trattoria! We used to live nearby and although we now live much further away, it remains our go-to Italian spot.

            2. s
              sabotage RE: hairycover Dec 7, 2008 07:31 PM

              I highly recommend Arrivederci in Hillcrest (on 4th I think). It sounds like what you may be looking for. Also, on the same topic I saw that another location is opening up on 30th street near University in North Park

              2 Replies
              1. re: sabotage
                Beach Chick RE: sabotage Dec 8, 2008 10:45 AM

                friends rave about this place..they go to the one in EC on Jamacha..
                I have not been but seems like a perfect place to go..especially after playing 18 holes at Singing Hills!


                1. re: sabotage
                  ramonaca RE: sabotage Jan 11, 2009 08:19 AM

                  We'd agree - having grown up in NYC Metro area - Arrivederci is similar to the neighborhood place (more than pizza). The only challenge we've had there is they tend to rush you turn the tables - but the food is what you'd expect and it is very good.

                2. b
                  Bobierto RE: hairycover Dec 8, 2008 08:10 AM

                  I thought that Trattoria Positano did a very good job but I haven't tried them since they moved from Hillcrest up to Solana Beach. Generally there just doesn't seem to be a much good Italian here and what there is is overpriced (Gaslamp Quarter ... need I say more?).

                  1. s
                    stevewag23 RE: hairycover Dec 8, 2008 08:14 AM


                    Ha, just playing.

                    Arrivederci is good.

                    1. t
                      The Old Man RE: hairycover Dec 8, 2008 09:43 AM

                      My last post was deleted. The question is, "[Is there] Any REAL Italian food in San Diego?"

                      My answer was, "No."

                      Seems to be an on-topic response.

                      9 Replies
                      1. re: The Old Man
                        jmtreg RE: The Old Man Dec 8, 2008 10:08 AM

                        Actually, Arrivederci on 4th and University serves "real" Italian food.

                        1. re: jmtreg
                          cstr RE: jmtreg Dec 8, 2008 02:52 PM

                          2nd Arrivederci, it is very good, IMO, the term 'real' can be quite controversial. In my case, I grew up with Italian Grandparents, from the homeland (Naples to be exact), and first generation parents so, I may have a different take on real, than others. I mean they're are regional differences that range from heavy meat and tomatoe sauces to seafood with a lot of citris and herbs and a lot in between.

                          1. re: cstr
                            oerdin RE: cstr Jan 9, 2009 02:52 AM

                            "2nd Arrivederci, it is very good, IMO, the term 'real' can be quite controversial. In my case, I grew up with Italian Grandparents, from the homeland (Naples to be exact), and first generation parents so, I may have a different take on real, than others. I mean they're are regional differences that range from heavy meat and tomato sauces to seafood with a lot of citrus and herbs and a lot in between."

                            This is an excellent post. If this site used reputation points then I'd totally give you one.

                        2. re: The Old Man
                          RB Hound RE: The Old Man Dec 8, 2008 10:22 AM

                          I think that the powers that be have a problem with your grumbling, topical or not, that you offer little in the way to justify your opinions.

                          When you throw out a "no", you should offer a few examples of the places you have tried, especially if they are places that other people here have recommended. My educated guess is that you have not tried *any* of the places here that others have recommended, which makes your "no" based on little evidence.

                          1. re: The Old Man
                            heredia76 RE: The Old Man Dec 8, 2008 12:22 PM

                            I agree, I have to make my own food when I'm craving guancale, or arancini, pork belly canelone. no real itallian around these parts.

                            1. re: heredia76
                              jmtreg RE: heredia76 Dec 9, 2008 09:43 AM

                              Solunto's sells arancini.

                            2. re: The Old Man
                              wanker RE: The Old Man Dec 8, 2008 03:20 PM

                              Sheesh. Enough of the food snobbery people. There is no such thing as "real" or "authentic" Italian food.

                              There are varying regional styles of Italian cooking and varying regional styles of Italian-American cooking (although most Italian American cooking is based upon Southern Italian cuisine as the majority of Italian Americans are from Naples, Sicily, Calabria etc.) , and obviously some restaurants are better than others. However, to summarly dismiss all SD Italian restaurants is a bit silly. Plus most people's memory of what is "authentic" NY or East Coast Italian is typically recalled through rose colored glasses.

                              Anyway, for good Italian American Manhattan's and Baci iare both solid, and Trattoria Positano in Cardiff makes terrific Amalfi Coast inspired dishes (i.e., seafood). Also Trattoria Aqua has many great dishes Southern Italian dishes (however, there menu is broader than just pure Italian food).

                              1. re: wanker
                                El Chevere RE: wanker Dec 18, 2008 09:42 AM

                                Not ALL--but majority--of Italian restaurants in San Diego are underwhelming and such a comparison is not based on NY or East Coast experiences. By contrast, San Francisco has far better Italian dining options in my opinion and not all are concentrated in tourist laden North Beach. Delfina, Incanto, SPQR, Perbacco, Caffe Sport, etc. are but a few that blow away most/all SD italian restaurants).

                                1. re: El Chevere
                                  DougOLis RE: El Chevere Dec 18, 2008 10:37 AM


                            3. a
                              araknd RE: hairycover Dec 8, 2008 01:55 PM

                              i Trulli in Encinitas is pretty authentic, I believe.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: araknd
                                hairycover RE: araknd Dec 8, 2008 04:20 PM

                                What about the Four Seasons in NC? I heard their Italian restaurant have some pretty decent stuff on it?

                              2. s
                                sg07 RE: hairycover Dec 17, 2008 06:12 PM

                                I would recommend Italian restaurants run by Italians...Cafe Bella Italia (on Garnet) and Mamma Mia (on the corner Lamont/Balboa) are run by Italians and my Italian friends who now live here frequent them both. Both are good and don't feel too Americanized. Enjoy

                                1. m
                                  MrKrispy RE: hairycover Dec 18, 2008 09:33 AM

                                  what the heck is "Real" Italian food?

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: MrKrispy
                                    honkman RE: MrKrispy Dec 18, 2008 10:17 AM

                                    Something with resemble food you would get in Italy. Starting from the ingredients (it doesn't have to be Italian ingredients but at least some higher quality) to having not everything drowned in sauce but using it very sparingly etc. Overall I think the OP is looking for not americanized Italian food which I haven';t found yet in SD.

                                    1. re: honkman
                                      MrKrispy RE: honkman Dec 18, 2008 12:13 PM

                                      aren't most Northern Italian-focused restaurants devoid of that type of food? I used to like Pannevino downtown since the dishes were of the Northern style, but the quality hasn't been there the last few years.

                                      What about the place in PB? I can't remember the name, it is in a strip mall towards the end of Garnet east.

                                      1. re: MrKrispy
                                        honkman RE: MrKrispy Dec 18, 2008 12:42 PM

                                        I don't know if you ever went to Italy but the food I described (for example using sauce very sparingly for pasta etc.) is not typical for a specific part of Italy but for everywhere in Italy. Many people seem to associate southern Italy food with something which is close to the stuff you get in SD but that couldn't be further from the truth. And Northern Italian restaurants in SD (e.g. Barolo) are OK but nothing particular good.

                                  2. El Chevere RE: hairycover Dec 18, 2008 09:36 AM

                                    I would agree with Baci and add Salvatore's (downtown)...I would avoid Little Italy (i.e. Iowa Italian = Ronzoni pasta with Heinz Ketchup as the sauce), with the exception of Mona Lisa.

                                    8 Replies
                                    1. re: El Chevere
                                      stevewag23 RE: El Chevere Dec 18, 2008 01:16 PM

                                      The Mona Lisa Market is one of the jewels of San Diego.

                                      If that place ever closed....well, lets hope it never does.

                                      1. re: stevewag23
                                        Bobierto RE: stevewag23 Dec 29, 2008 01:42 PM

                                        I agree but don't forget Assenti Pasta across the street. Smaller joint but the Assenti brothers offer some damn fine house-made pasta, plus a nice charcuterie counter (can't think what you'd call that in Italian), cheese and sauces too.

                                        1. re: Bobierto
                                          kare_raisu RE: Bobierto Dec 29, 2008 01:51 PM


                                          1. re: Bobierto
                                            stevewag23 RE: Bobierto Jan 2, 2009 01:31 PM

                                            Right on. Assenti Pasta is another jewel of san diego.

                                            A true class act.

                                          2. re: stevewag23
                                            stangoldsmith RE: stevewag23 Jan 13, 2009 10:41 AM

                                            What is good to get at Mona Lisa? I only had a meatball sandwich there and I thought Filippi's meatball sandwich was much better.

                                            1. re: stangoldsmith
                                              cookieshoes RE: stangoldsmith Jan 13, 2009 11:15 AM

                                              Caprese Sandwich or the one with all of the italian ham and cheese on it. I don't remember if it was the "Deluxe" or the "Special".

                                              Their fresh pastas and sausages are great as well. Take home and make yourself.

                                              1. re: cookieshoes
                                                honkman RE: cookieshoes Jan 13, 2009 11:38 AM

                                                I would go to Assanti's for fresh pasta which is pretty much across the street.

                                                1. re: honkman
                                                  stevewag23 RE: honkman Feb 18, 2009 10:47 PM

                                                  Great move.

                                        2. l
                                          littlestevie RE: hairycover Dec 18, 2008 10:18 AM

                                          I put in a thumbs up for trattoria i trulli in Encinitas. I think it is the best of the gamut of Italian places in Encinitas.

                                          1. kare_raisu RE: hairycover Dec 29, 2008 02:28 PM

                                            I am looking for Trippa alla Romana...

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: kare_raisu
                                              hairycover RE: kare_raisu Jan 13, 2009 12:54 PM

                                              They got Trippa alla Parmigiana at Vivace's in north county. Had it last week. Slow braised goodness.

                                              1. re: hairycover
                                                kitchenhag RE: hairycover Jul 11, 2010 02:21 PM

                                                The chef @ Vivace makes his own salumi. Still the same wonderful regional Italian food even tho it's no longer the Four Seasons.

                                            2. s
                                              stradacouple RE: hairycover Jan 1, 2009 05:30 PM

                                              Buon Appetito

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: stradacouple
                                                SDGourmand RE: stradacouple Jan 7, 2009 07:40 AM

                                                I think When in Rome is pretty solid for the most part. They have there own garden in the back that they use for the salads and the seafood ravioli is always a hit. Other than that take a drive up to LA and hit Osteria Mozza for an east coast take on Italian food.

                                              2. e
                                                Ewilensky RE: hairycover Jan 8, 2009 02:56 PM

                                                I always thought Villa Italia was excellent -- once had a location in the Kerny Village Shopping Center which might be closed but they still have one on the 101 in Encinitas.

                                                I think they also opened a spot in La Mesa under a different name which was excellent.

                                                Arrivederci is also quite good but I have much better luck ordering off the specials than the main menu.

                                                1. c
                                                  cookieshoes RE: hairycover Jan 10, 2009 11:07 AM

                                                  Barolo in the Renaissance shopping center behind UTC mall. Excellent authentic Italian.


                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: cookieshoes
                                                    ginael RE: cookieshoes Jan 10, 2009 08:12 PM

                                                    Barolo is delicious. The pear ravioli is addictive.

                                                  2. p
                                                    psfoodgirl RE: hairycover Jan 14, 2009 07:56 PM

                                                    Not sure you can find any "real" Italian around here. I am usually dissapointed but keep searching!

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: psfoodgirl
                                                      jmtreg RE: psfoodgirl Jan 15, 2009 07:41 AM

                                                      Arriverderci in Hillcrest. Try it.

                                                    2. s
                                                      SDSarah RE: hairycover Jan 17, 2009 10:12 AM

                                                      Villa Capri in Carmel Valley is our favorite, though we really like I Trulli in Encinitas as well. It's probably a bit lighter and more upscale than what you have in mind, but my friend from Sicily gives it a strong stamp of approval (she likes I Trulli as well).

                                                      1. j
                                                        JerseyWarren RE: hairycover Feb 17, 2009 11:21 AM

                                                        Yes, there IS such as thing as "real" or "authentic" Italian food; it is Italian food made like that in Italy or by Italian-Americans that have remained faithful to the recipes of their ancestors. (For example, Olive Garden definitely DOES NOT qualify, mainly because their breadsticks resemble Wonder Bread more than authentic Italian bread!) That said, I did find an authentic Italian restaurant in San Diego. It is called Tep's Villa Roma. (Their website is http://www.tepsvillaroma.com/dining.html) They also have restaurants in Lake Tahoe and in Rahway, New Jersey. The latter says a lot, since for an Italian restaurant to survive in New Jersey, it MUST be good! :) Here is their contact information:
                                                        Tep's Villa Roma
                                                        3010 Clairemont Dr
                                                        San Diego, CA 92117-7001
                                                        Phone: (619) 276-3462

                                                        9 Replies
                                                        1. re: JerseyWarren
                                                          stevuchan RE: JerseyWarren Feb 17, 2009 11:40 AM

                                                          Do they have the "antipasta" bar at the San Diego location? BTW there are 10 Olive Gardens in New Jersey.

                                                          1. re: stevuchan
                                                            Northpark RE: stevuchan Feb 18, 2009 09:44 AM

                                                            That is one damn funny reply! I like your quick wit, stevuchan.

                                                            1. re: Northpark
                                                              Bobierto RE: Northpark Feb 18, 2009 01:36 PM

                                                              I'm all with Stevechan ... I've had some damn lousy Italian food in Manhattan ... if the tourists will eat it, they will dish it up.

                                                            2. re: stevuchan
                                                              JerseyWarren RE: stevuchan Jul 11, 2010 11:25 AM

                                                              > Stevuchan: I honestly don't remember if they have an antipasto bar in San Diego. As for 10 Olive Gardens in New Jersey, what is that in a state of 9 million people, a little more than one for every million people? There are enough transplants from the Midwest, tourists, or immigrants from India to support 10 OGs among that number of people! But, I assure your, OG-level "quality" (or lack thereof) does not go over well with any sizeable portion of the NJ population. My ancestors came from Italy and I have been to Italy, and New Jersey and New York Italian restaurants (on the whole) are much closer that what is found in Italy than what is typically found in most other areas, with the exception a few isolated cities like Boston and San Francisco.

                                                              1. re: JerseyWarren
                                                                jweg RE: JerseyWarren Jul 11, 2010 06:58 PM

                                                                Born and bred in northern NJ, Italian grandparents...I can say with conviction that just because people are from NJ does not mean they have some inate taste for good Italian food. In fact there are so many people of Italian descent in the tri-state area that it's easy for any schlub to open an Italian place and frankly there are SO many "italian" places that most of them are of questionable quality.

                                                                There are plenty of crappy Italian places in Manhattan, San Fran, Boston.

                                                                1. re: jweg
                                                                  mliew RE: jweg Jul 12, 2010 10:16 AM

                                                                  Yeah, I really hate when people make the argument that because they are of a certain ethnicity that they should know what good food that ethnicity tastes like. I know plenty of people from all ethnicities that have bad taste in their own ethnic food. Just because you've been eating something your whole life doesn't mean that what you are eating is good. You could just be used to eating bad food.

                                                              2. re: stevuchan
                                                                stevewag23 RE: stevuchan Jul 11, 2010 11:48 AM

                                                                "there are 10 Olive Gardens in New Jersey."

                                                                Those are for tourists.

                                                                1. re: stevewag23
                                                                  stevuchan RE: stevewag23 Jul 12, 2010 09:14 AM

                                                                  My comment was in response to

                                                                  "They also have restaurants in Lake Tahoe and in Rahway, New Jersey. The latter says a lot, since for an Italian restaurant to survive in New Jersey, it MUST be good! :)"

                                                                  Never bought into the the idea of cuisine X must be good because it is from location Y.

                                                              3. re: JerseyWarren
                                                                ikeg RE: JerseyWarren Jul 12, 2010 10:12 AM

                                                                Apparently this place wasn't very good at all - a three start rating on Yelp! (which is really hard to do, considering that most places get overrated there), and the restaurant has since closed.

                                                                There's another Italian place in the same location, named La Dolce Vita. Why are failed restaurants always replaced with new restaurants serving the same type of food?

                                                                La Dolce Vita recently closed after opening last year, which makes my point slightly more amusing.

                                                              4. s
                                                                sdnosh RE: hairycover Feb 17, 2009 03:32 PM

                                                                Buon Appetito in Littly Italy is excellent. I'm still dreaming about the Osso Bucco and Risotto I had there. Magnifico! I've never tried Arrivaderci (sp?) - it's on my short list - but I did try Pomodoro in Point Loma by the same owners and was not impressed. My beet salad was great but the Osso Bucco - not so much.

                                                                3 Replies
                                                                1. re: sdnosh
                                                                  ikeg RE: sdnosh Jul 12, 2010 10:29 AM

                                                                  Buon Appetito is owned by the same owner as Arrivederci, the food is essentially the same. Most of the Italian restaurants in Little Italy/Hillcrest are owned by two families, which gives the appearance of diverse options, even through they are using the same recipes in every restaurant.

                                                                  Buon Appetito
                                                                  1609 India St, San Diego, CA 92101

                                                                  1. re: ikeg
                                                                    Island RE: ikeg Jul 12, 2010 11:57 AM

                                                                    i didn't know most were owned by 2 families. I've never eaten in an Italian restaurant in Little Italy. Was down there this weekend for the Little Italy farmers market and noticed a new restaurant is coming to the corner location that was formerly an architectural supply salvage store. Another Italian place i think. Anyone know anything about it?

                                                                    1. re: Island
                                                                      jmtreg RE: Island Jul 12, 2010 01:34 PM

                                                                      Well, the Busalacchi family owns three on the street - Cafe Zucchero, Cafe Fantastico, and Po Pazzo - so that tends to skew things. However, Fillippi's, Solunto's, Mona Lisa, are all family-owned and relatively independent.

                                                                      Cafe Zucchero
                                                                      1731 India St, San Diego, CA 92101

                                                                2. g
                                                                  gator28 RE: hairycover Jul 12, 2010 02:36 PM

                                                                  Try Rosanna's Pasta Shop in Encinitas. Delicious, a real gem IMO.

                                                                  Rosanna's Pasta
                                                                  270 N El Camino Real Suite 1, Encinitas, CA 92024

                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                  1. re: gator28
                                                                    SDGourmand RE: gator28 Jul 12, 2010 03:19 PM

                                                                    I would never go back to Rosanna's I found the workers and owner to be extremely rude. I have talked to several people and they all say the same things.

                                                                    1. re: SDGourmand
                                                                      gator28 RE: SDGourmand Jul 12, 2010 03:36 PM

                                                                      That's what I hear from some people, but Rosanna and her employees are always really nice to me. And the food always tastes great. Sorry you had a bad experience.

                                                                      1. re: gator28
                                                                        jweg RE: gator28 Jul 12, 2010 04:07 PM

                                                                        I really love rosanna's Italian sub. Pastas are a little hit and miss and I like their bolognese when I'm feeling too lazy to make my own although it's a bit sweet. Regarding the service, the young blond woman who usually works the front is always delightful. the owners are little hot and cold but never rude in my experience. Strange how people have different experiences.

                                                                  2. Fake Name RE: hairycover Jul 12, 2010 04:03 PM

                                                                    Excellent, another opportunity to boast about two weeks ago!

                                                                    If you really, really want to be picky about Italian food, you have to specify of what part of Italy you're typing. Italy is a very young country. Obviously, it has thousands of years of history, but not as Italy as we know it. More like many different countries, and, at some point, it was convenient to begin operating as a single country. But, in their hearts, the country is still divided into regions.

                                                                    *Here comes the boasting part*: Two weeks ago I was in both Tuscany and Liguria. Yes, Italian was spoken in both regions, and yes, they had similar menu structures, but the food was vastly and delightfully different. Tuscany was full of cured and roasted meats, Liguria was full of seafood and basil.

                                                                    *Boasting again*: It was all very, very good. Except for that one carbonara in Cortona.- very odd.

                                                                    In two weeks of magnificent feasts, I never had a single pasta with tomato sauce.

                                                                    Ragú, oh yes- Cinghiale and Coniglio especially.

                                                                    But nothing close to the red checker vinyl tablecloths of New Jersey or Filippis.

                                                                    4 Replies
                                                                    1. re: Fake Name
                                                                      Josh RE: Fake Name Jul 12, 2010 07:51 PM

                                                                      I'm suitably jealous. One of my favorite pasta dishes was tagliatelle with wild boar sauce at Il Latini in Florence. Bice in the Gaslamp had food that approximated some of the things we saw in Italy, but I think it's a little too expensive for the level of cuisine.

                                                                      1. re: Josh
                                                                        Fake Name RE: Josh Jul 13, 2010 04:02 AM

                                                                        "I'm suitably jealous"

                                                                        And I bask in the schadenfreude.

                                                                        I did recall, though, pasta with tomato was frequently offered to the six kids in our group (when we traveled with other families- we don't have six kids!) But it was truly pasta with chopped tomato- not the jarred Ragu style popular with the red-checkered tables of the US or the gravy of the south of Italy.

                                                                        [Clemenza] (to Mike):
                                                                        "Heh, come over here, kid, learn something. You never know, you might have to cook for 20 guys someday. You see, you start out with a little bit of oil. Then you fry some garlic. Then you throw in some tomatoes, tomato paste, you fry it; ya make sure it doesn't stick. You get it to a boil; you shove in all your sausage and your meatballs; heh…? And a little bit o' wine. An' a little bit o' sugar, and that's my trick."

                                                                        1. re: Fake Name
                                                                          Josh RE: Fake Name Jul 13, 2010 10:19 AM

                                                                          Our trip to Italy made me love carbonara. Though in Rome we ate at a spaghetteria that had a truly epic southern Italian gravy with sausage.

                                                                          1. re: Fake Name
                                                                            Nick0771 RE: Fake Name Jul 13, 2010 11:48 PM

                                                                            Haha awesome quote. One of my favorite lines from a movie packed full of great lines. I love the way he says "meatballs," such a quintessential New York Italian-American accent!

                                                                      Show Hidden Posts