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Is there good Italian in San Diego's Little Italy?


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Is there good Italian in San Diego's Little Italy?

Barham Turner | Oct 19, 2005 03:39 PM

I'm an LA Chowhound and we spent last weekend exploring Little Italy and downtown San Diego. We were very impressed with all the redevelopment and new construction and the many new restaurants. But we didn't have much luck finding good Italian in what one might expect to be its SD homeland.

We had a glass of wine and an appetizer at Sogni di Vino on India Street, which apparently is owned by the same folks who own Buon Appetito. The wine list was intriguing and had many esoteric selections; I opted for a goldmuskateller from Alto Adige that was spectacularly delicious. But the smoked duck "carpaccio" served with morel mushrooms, frisee and white truffle oil was laughable. First, it came without either the frisee or the truffle oil. When I pointed this out, the waiter apologized and came back with a ramekin with about a teaspoon of white truffle oil (tasty & fragrant)and then when I asked again about the frisee, he again apologized ("new person in the kitchen") and brought a plate of mixed baby salad greens, sans dressing. I decided to just let it drop. The morels were reconstituted dry morels and were absolutely without flavor. They were charging $16 for this. So we rolled our eyes, paid the bill and left. I'd go back for wine but you takes yer chances on the food.

We had dinner at Buon Appetito which has been recommended on this board. We (husband & I) split an app, a pasta and an entree. Portions were ridiculously large even split. The calamari was quite good, served with a spicy marinara sauce. The duck ragu with fusili was not great; the sauce was really tomatoey with none of the rich meaty duck-y flavor I'd look for. The Osso Bucco tasted more like steam-table stuff. No vibrancy of flavor, just tasted like it had been cooked to death. Wine service was not nearly as professional as Sogni di Vino; the red wines were actually served at about 75 degrees which was not very appetizing.

We also ate at Indigo Grill, which is one of those over-the-top showplaces with dinner plates the size of trays and portions to match. The food was good quality but it's really not my sort of place. And of course it's Pacific Rim not Italian.

We desserted at Extraordinary Desserts on Union which we liked. Really a fun space, happening vibe, tasty desserts. We also stopped for pizza at the venerable Filippi's on India (established 1950) and had an excellent sausage pizza with what we believe to be housemade sausage redolent of fennel seed. And we loved the Italian delis at Filippi's and Mona Lisa as well as the fresh pasta place across the street.

The saving grace of the weekend, food-wise, was a fast brunch before we left town at Cafe Chloe near the ballpark. Intriguing, sophisticated menu, fresh ingredients, everything made to order. Now that's a good restaurant.

But besides our Filippi's experience, we were unsuccessful at finding fine Italian food in Little Italy. We saw a couple of promising-looking Italian joints--Po Pazzo and Voyage--but didn't have time to check them out. Can you local Chowhounds enlighten us--is there good Italian in Little Italy?

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