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Where to Go for Delicious Italian Food in San Diego

Our favorite places to go for a taste of Italy right here in the city.

San Diego is one of California’s premier coastal cities. It’s home to some of the best entertainment in the state, plus stunning nature, culture, and a deep-sea harbor. So if you are looking for the ideal place to learn about the state’s history and soak in a little bit of West Coast charm, San Diego is it.

chef plating pasta dish at san diego italian restaurant

This city also has some of the best dining options in California. Its restaurants are known for fusing different flavors and creating dishes based on local ingredients and international influences. So if you want a taste of Sicily or Rome, these best Italian restaurants in San Diego will undoubtedly deliver.

From casual dining to a high-end restaurant experience, you and your family will undoubtedly find what you’re looking for in San Diego. If you’re hungry for the real thing, you’ve certainly come to the right place. Check out my list of the best Italian restaurants in San Diego below.

Best Italian Restaurants in San Diego

  1. Bencotto
  2. Buona Forchetta
  3. Catania
  4. CUCINA urbana
  5. Civico 1845
  6. Monello
  7. Enoteca Adriano
  8. Piatti
  9. Davanti Enoteca
  10. Cesarina
  11. Pappalecco
  12. Parma Cucina Italiana
  13. Mona Lisa Italian Foods
  14. Pomodoro Ristorante Italiano
  15. Buon Appetito
  16. Cucina Enoteca
  17. Isola Pizza Bar

Bencotto

750 W Fir St #103, San Diego, CA 92101
Phone: 619-450-4786
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Just a few blocks away from Waterfront Park, you’ll find Bencotto, a lovely little Italian restaurant that serves authentic food with a sophisticated twist.

The atmosphere at Bencotto is warm, welcoming, and very comfortable, and every member of their staff will try to make your experience as good as possible.

The food is top-notch too. Their Lamb Shank and Short Ribs are fall-off-the-bone delicious and packed with tons of flavor. Their pasta dishes are also excellent. Everything tastes fresh, homemade, just like you’d get it in Rome. Try their meatballs, and make sure that you save some room for dessert.


Buona Forchetta

3001 Beech St, San Diego, CA 92102
Phone: 619-381-4844
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Work out at Wicked Fit gym, then head right across the street to treat yourself at Buona Forchetta.

This restaurant serves up your favorite comfort foods in a stylish setting that’s certainly going to please. In addition to the exceptional menu, they also have a robust wine list and good service.

The classics are great at Buona Forchetta. I love their lasagna and eggplant parmesan. Both dishes are packed with cheese, sauce, and tons of flavors. You can taste the difference in their homemade noodles. They’re strong enough to stand up to the sauce but still light and fluffy.


Catania

7863 Girard Avenue #301 F3, La Jolla, CA 92037
Phone: 858-551-5105
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Catania is right across the street from the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library in the heart of San Diego. This classic and chic Italian restaurant has all of your favorites, like mouthwatering plates of pasta and delicious pizzas.

One thing that I like about Catania is that you can share many of their dishes and sample a lot of different things on the menu.

If you want to try an exciting flavor combination that’s truly representative of Old World Italy, order their Aglio e Olio with shrimp. It’s full of cheese, fresh garlic, and delicious olive oil. It’s not as heavy as some of their other entrees, and it certainly will satisfy you.


CUCINA urbana

505 Laurel St, San Diego, CA 92101
Phone: 619-239-2222
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Next to Nate’s Point Dog Park, you’ll find CUCINA urbana. This sophisticated eatery has a great patio where you can soak in all of the ambiance of downtown San Diego in style. You’ll love their extensive wine list and cocktail menu, plus the food is next-level delicious.

Try their Squash Blossoms. They are tender-crisp with plenty of rich flavors and a tasty sauce. Their pizzas are excellent, too, especially their salami pizza topped with cheese and plenty of thinly-sliced meats.

Opt for their beet and citrus salad if you want to try a delicious appetizer to share. It’s light, refreshing, and hits the spot.


Civico 1845

1845 India St, San Diego, CA 92101
Phone: 619-431-5990
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Just two blocks down from Fir Street Park is Civico 1845. This fantastic Italian restaurant has something for everybody, including a lovely vegan menu.

So if you have dietary restrictions or needs but want to sit down for a sumptuous Italian feast, Civico 1845 is a great option.

Their vegan lasagna has all of the old-world flavors you would expect from fine Italian dining, and even carnivores would find it satisfying. Try their fresh cheese also. Their burrata is exceptionally fresh and tasty, and their desserts are lovely.


Monello

750 W Fir St, San Diego, CA 92101
Phone: 619-501-0030
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Monello is just a short walk away from San Diego’s Waterfront Park and is one of the more popular places to dine in the city.

It’s a local favorite, so it’s an excellent idea to make reservations well in advance. You will undoubtedly be happy that you did.

This restaurant is well-known for its excellent menu and fantastic service. Their drinks menu is superb, too, with traditional favorites and signature cocktails that are sure to please any palate. One of the key draws of Monello is their cheese wheel pasta. This dish has the presentation down pat, with the pasta mixed in a giant wheel of cheese.


Enoteca Adriano

4864 Cass St, San Diego, CA 92109
Phone: 858-490-0085
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Walk two blocks from Callan Swim School, and you will find Enoteca Adriano. This jewel of a restaurant is one of the best Italian eateries in San Diego. If you’re exploring the city’s downtown area, you should certainly stop in for a memorable meal.

One thing that you can expect from Enoteca Adriano is exceptional renditions of all the classics. Their Carpaccio is sublime, with thin slices of expertly prepared meat and a tasty sauce. Additionally, their chicken Piccata is lovely. The portions are generous too.


Piatti

2182 Avenida De La Playa, La Jolla, CA 92037
Phone: 858-454-1589
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If you find yourself at the La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club, make sure that you stop by Piatti. This San Diego staple is a local haunt and one of the more interesting Italian restaurants you’ll find downtown.

They have a good sampling of meat and vegetable dishes, and their sides are much more than just an afterthought. If you’re not too hungry, you can even make a meal out of them.

Try their lasagna. It’s deliciously cheesy and packed with meaty flavor. It goes well with one of their house wines. If you can, save some room for dessert. I love their pumpkin cheesecake. It’s packed with decadent flavor and is the best end to a beautiful meal.


Davanti Enoteca

Multiple locations
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There are several Davanti Enoteca locations around San Diego, so there’s bound to be one near you. Definitely give this classy chain a try next time you’re in the city.

You certainly won’t regret it. Davanti Enoteca has excellent service and an inspired menu of all of your Old World favorites.

Since all their locations tend to be pretty popular, making reservations in advance is a good idea, especially during busier times. Their side dishes, especially the Risotto or Polenta, are exceptional, and I love their Rigatoni with sausage.


Cesarina

4161 Voltaire St, San Diego, CA 92107
Phone: 619-226-6222
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Walk a few blocks from Bill Cleator Community Park, and you’ll be right outside Cesarina, a lovely little place right in the heart of San Diego where you can sample delicious food that tastes like it’s straight from Sicily.

I love everything at this restaurant, but I’m particularly partial to the Spaghetti Allo Scoglio. It’s so good, and it tastes fresh and handmade.

Their drinks and desserts are exceptional, especially their housemade spritzes and Tiramisu. The Tiramisu is decadent, heavily coffee-flavored, and has just the right amount of chocolate and cream. Absolutely delicious!


Pappalecco

Multiple locations
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With multiple locations throughout the city, there’s no reason for you not to pay a special visit to Pappalecco.

Guests are greeted by a warm and welcoming staff who can tell you about everything on the menu. If you have any dietary restrictions or special requests, they are happy to honor them.

Their coffee is one of the standout items on the menu. It’s rich, delicious, and not bitter at all. So if you’re looking for an authentic cup of the good stuff, Pappalecco is the right place to go. Try their various focaccia bread and desserts too. Their caramel cheesecake is heavenly.


Parma Cucina Italiana

3850 Fifth Ave, San Diego, CA 92103
Phone: 619-543-0049
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Parma Cucina Italiana is relatively close to Marston House, and visiting is almost like taking a dream trip to the old country itself.

If you’re looking for fresh, authentic cuisine served with a smile, Parma Cucina Italiana is the place to go. I love the cheese and fresh appetizers at Parma Cucina Italiana. Both of them are a fantastic way to start your meal.

If you love coffee, you should definitely try the espresso and save room for some of their homemade desserts to round off a charming meal.


Mona Lisa Italian Foods

2061 India St, San Diego, CA 92101
Phone: 619-234-4893
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Mona Lisa Italian Foods is just two blocks from FOUND Hotel San Diego, and it’s a cute, comfortable place to get tasty Italian food at a reasonable price.

Mona Lisa Italian Foods is the real deal, and their staff can help you pick out the best dishes for your taste and dietary needs.

It’s part Italian deli, part restaurant, with a robust wine selection and excellent take-home items. I love their homemade pestos and their great selection of cheeses. Dine in and sample their homemade spaghetti and meatballs for a real treat.


Pomodoro Ristorante Italiano

2833 Avenida De Portugal, San Diego, CA 92106
Phone: 619-523-1301
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Pomodoro Ristorante Italiano is a few blocks away from the San Diego Yacht Club. This cute and classic Italian restaurant is a local favorite, although it hasn’t hit the tourist map yet.

So if you’re looking for a great restaurant with a fun local flair and excellent food, check out Pomodoro Ristorante Italiano.

Their reasonably-priced menu is full of traditional favorites and dishes with a sophisticated new twist, like their take on eggplant parmesan. Pomodoro Ristorante Italiano’s version is light, cheesy, and you can taste the eggplant shining through. Their Caesar salad is exceptional too.


Buon Appetito

1609 India St, San Diego, CA 92101
Phone: 619-238-9880
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Buon Appetito is three blocks from Waterfront Park, so you can stop by for a meal after enjoying the day out on the waterfront.

This restaurant has an excellent location and a lovely outdoor patio, and it serves delicious Italian food and seafood. If you like lobster, definitely order it at Buon Appetito. They have some of the best that I’ve ever eaten.

Their wine list is terrific too. Their Tuscan Chianti is big, bold, and mellow. It pairs wonderfully with almost all of their dishes, especially homemade pasta. Finally, save some space for their desserts. I’m fond of their cannolis, but virtually anything is impressive.


CUCINA enoteca Del Mar

2730 Via De La Valle #1906, Del Mar, CA 92014
Phone: 858-704-4500
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Reasonably close to Del Mar Horsepark, you’ll find CUCINA enoteca Del Mar. This restaurant notably uses local, fresh ingredients and puts a creative spin on all of your favorite dishes.

The result is a unique dining experience utilizing small plates that you can easily share to sample a little something of everything. 

One of my favorites has got to be the whole roasted fish. The type of fish changes regularly, and CUCINA enoteca Del Mar serves it with mouthwatering sauce and sides. I love their short rib Pappardelle too. The meat just falls right off the bone.


Isola Pizza Bar

Multiple locations
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Isola Pizza Bar has multiple locations across San Diego so that you can get your pizza fix from just about anywhere in the city.

As you might guess from the name, they serve excellent pizza, plus delicious coffees, beers, and desserts. So if you’re looking for Italian comfort food, Isola Pizza Bar is the right place for you to go.

I am a big fan of their pizzas, but I also like their various bruschettas and plates of pasta. Everything tastes homemade. Plus, they have a great wine list, and their servers can make recommendations on what pairs best with their food.


Final Thoughts

If you have a craving for Italian food in San Diego, these restaurants will satisfy it. So whether you’re looking for great, homestyle pizza with all of the toppings or decadent pasta that tastes like they’re from the Old World, you can find it.These best Italian restaurants in San Diego have something for every taste, budget, and style.

If you’re in San Diego and you’ve got a large group, check out our list of private dining restaurants in the city!

Did we get all of your favorites? Make sure that you let us know in the comments below!

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Written by Ryan F.

Ryan is a Philadelphia local who enjoys checking out Philly's restaurant scene every chance he can. He grew up in South Jersey and now lives in Philadelphia's Point Breeze neighborhood. Ryan also enjoys traveling and checking out local eateries in every city he visits.