A Full Locals Guide on The Best Italian Restaurants in San Diego
Are you craving authentic Italian cuisine in San Diego? Look no further! From traditional trattorias to modern eateries, San Diego offers a delightful array of Italian restaurants that cater to every palate. Whether you’re in the mood for classic pasta dishes, wood-fired pizzas, or indulgent desserts, these culinary gems are sure to satisfy your cravings. I have been lucky enough to visit over 50 restaurants in San Diego so I’ve curated the best of the best Italian spots in this post.
Join me on a journey through the Best Italian restaurants in San Diego. Where each bite is a taste of Italy’s rich culinary heritage. Finally, I would like to mention that I am Italian, therefore, I know a thing or two about spotting a good place!
Starting the list off strong with the best Italian restaurant in all of San Diego. Cesarina is a charming Italian restaurant located in the Point Loma neighborhood. Known for its authentic cuisine, cozy atmosphere, and welcoming ambiance. This Italian trattoria is driven by AMORE, passion, faithful hospitality, and the pursuit of the best Italian cuisine.
It was opened in February 2019 by three Italian natives (Niccolò Angius, Cesarina Mezzoni, and Giuseppe Capasso). Their restaurant honors the Italian matriarchy within the fabric of its mission: to create a convivial atmosphere that nurtures the community as a mother would.
At Cesarina, you can expect to find a menu that celebrates the flavors of Italy, featuring dishes crafted with locally sourced ingredients and traditional Italian recipes. From handmade pasta to fresh seafood and succulent meats, each dish is prepared with care and attention to detail. The restaurant also boasts an extensive wine list showcasing Italian varietals, perfect for pairing with your meal.
The cozy yet elegant atmosphere at Cesarina makes it an ideal spot for a romantic dinner, a special celebration, or a relaxed evening with friends. Cesarina offers a memorable dining experience that transports you to the heart of Italy. Whether you’re craving a classic dish like pappardelle, or lasagna, or are eager to try a contemporary creation. Whatever you do you can’t miss the tableside tiramisu at the end of the meal! Finally, they offer gluten-free and vegan options.
Continuing from my raving review of Cesarina, Elvira is their brand new sister restaurant that opened in 2023. Housed in a charming casita near the ocean, Meet Elvira. Inspired by the families of Nonna this Roman Osteria meets pizzeria-style restaurant is just as incredible and tasty. The decor again is incredibly cozy with an outdoor fireplace, the walls are adorned with the family’s pictures, and the food is mouth-watering.
Menu favorites include the classic cacio e pepe, meatballs, and pizza carbonara. You can build your pizza here and they have unique offerings too including the Fritti del Giorno (fried menu item of the day), the lemon sorbet cocktail, and the interactive Frittelle di Nonna dessert. Finally, make sure to book a reservation in advance!
“At Buona Forchetta, we believe that food is more than just sustenance—it is an experience that brings people together, creates lasting memories, and celebrates the simple joys of life.” – Owner Matteo Cattaneo
Buona Forchetta is a San Diego staple that has been around for many years. It now has 5 locations in San Diego with the OG being South Park. Buona Forchetta translates to “being a good fork” which means to really enjoy the food. And it’s easy to do that at Buona. Known for their wood-fired pizzas, with the perfectly soft-yet-crispy crusts, and delicious handmade pasta dishes.
This restaurant seems to be bustling at any time during the week. Menu favorites include Lasagna Bolognese, Bruschettone, and a myriad of different pizzas (our favorite is le bianche Andrea). Finally, they offer gluten-free pasta and pizza crust and for dessert don’t miss their cannolis!
D’Avanti Enoteca is a hidden gem in Little Italy. This family-owned restaurant is located on the main street in town (India Street) and has a charming outdoor area that is perfect for people-watching. Their claim to fame is their Focaccia Di Recco with soft crescenza cheese, drizzled with honey. I dream about that bread daily. Along with that, they have great authentic dishes to try and a classic Italian-style atmosphere.
Other menu favorites include the cacio e pepe, lobster ravioli, and prosciutto meatballs. What I love about this restaurant is there are no frills and we mainly come here for the delicious food. Finally, they have a few other locations scattered about San Diego.
CUCINA Urbana’s contemporary Italian food is prepared with a focus on California seasonality and the bounty of local farms. Combined flavors of Italy with the organic freshness of Southern California are emblematic of CUCINA’s from-scratch menus. Along with that, the restaurant is known for shareable portions of house-made pasta, innovative pizza, an elevated selection of antipasti, and a signature cheese and salumi program.
Menu favorites include whole branzino, bucatini amatriciana, squash blossom, cucina meatballs, and a myriad of pizzas. Finally, they offer vegan cheese, gluten-free pasta, and an incredible wine list.
In conclusion, San Diego is home to a diverse and vibrant Italian culinary scene. Offering a range of authentic and innovative dining experiences. Whether you’re craving traditional pasta dishes, wood-fired pizzas, or contemporary Italian cuisine, the city has something to satisfy every palate.
From the charming ambiance of Cesarina to the dining experience at Cucina Urbana, each restaurant on this list has its unique flair and dedication to delivering exceptional Italian flavors. So, whether you’re a local looking for your next favorite spot or a visitor eager to explore San Diego’s culinary delights, these Best Italian Restaurants are sure to leave you with a taste of la dolce vita. Buon appetito!
Don’t Miss my Best Restaurants in San Diego for 2024 post as well!