For those who want a taste of Italian culture, there’s no need to book a plane ticket to Europe just yet. Instead, try taking a quick visit to San Diego’s very own Little Italy! A hilly, scenic area with a low crime rate, Little Italy was originally a tuna fishing neighborhood populated by Italian immigrants, and it also served as the home of one of the largest tuna canneries at the time, the Pacific Tuna Canning Company.
Established in the 1920s, Little Italy is Downtown San Diego’s oldest continuous business district; yet the community is a world apart from the city’s taxing white-collar hustle. Although much of its industry and architecture stems from its Mediterranean namesake, it maintains a flair that is distinctly San Diegan, as well as a strong sense of community.
Little Italy is a flourishing district that is brimming with quaint Italian restaurants with al fresco areas, cafes, art galleries, Italian retail shops, antique stores, and home design stores, all of which are aimed at giving visitors and residents an authentic Italian atmosphere. Even the area’s architecture strives to maintain this feel, as old buildings are renovated and preserved, and newer buildings are styled to echo the character of older establishments. The neighborhood also features tree-lined streets, plazas, and public art, which adds to the area’s picturesque appeal.
Known as an epicenter for epicures, the area’s eating options range from grab-and-go meatball subs to fine Italian dining, both classic and innovative. The area is also home to many art galleries and other creative endeavors. Art galleries include Scott White Contemporary Art, which promotes the works of emerging and mid-career artists, and Perry L. Meyer Fine Art, specializing in 18th-century art to contemporary works on paper.
Potential homeowners will be glad to learn that creative builders and architects have and are continually building new developments in the area. Business is growing as both Italian and non-Italian entrepreneurs maintaining and opening retail and professional spaces. In addition, a number of restoration and street improvement projects are underway to preserve the area’s aesthetic, with more improvements planned for the near future.
In its efforts to keep in touch with its roots, Little Italy also houses the Convivio Center & Little Italy Heritage Museum, a destination for arts, culture, heritage and all things Italian in San Diego. There’s also the weekly Farmer’s Market, known as the Mercato, on top of a number of big annual events that are held in the neighborhood. These events include the Carnavale which is a Venetian masquerade that is held around Mardi Gras time, the ArtWalk held every April, and the Sicilian Festival in May, to name just a few. Most events are organized by the Little Italy Neighborhood Association, which is also in charge of maintaining the area.