Exploring San Diego's Little Italy

Updated: Jul 26

The best places to eat, visit and sight see within 24 hours in one of my favorite places to layover.

Since becoming a flight attendant I have loved flying transcontinental. That love has expanded even more now that I work my airline's business class to and from the West Coast. There is something about how picturesque the West Coast is, how the energy just draws you in and captivates you. My first time ever visiting California I fell in love with it. The sun, the views, the constant nice weather but most importantly the beaches(I love being around large bodies of water). I loved it so much that I moved to the Valley of Los Angeles for two years. Since then I've moved back to the East but the love I hold for the West will always be there. My favorite California city to spend my layovers in, is hands down San Diego, there is so much to see and every turn seems like an adventure. Little Italy is home to a plethora of shops and eateries, it's a foodies best dream come true and if your hotel or airbnb happens to be close to the bay you are getting the best of both worlds. Here are some of my favorite places to eat(the more places I find the more I'll update the list) I hope the foodie in you enjoys.

1. Cafe Gratitude

1980 Kettner Blvd San Diego, CA 92101

I originally found out about Cafe Gratitude from Uber Eats. I was being a slam clicker(flight attendant lingo for a flight attendant who goes in their room shuts and locks the door only to be seen when it's the van time to leave) and being lazy but I had a craving for vegan food. Low and be hold I scroll across this amazing cafe. What pulled me in even more to this place was everything on the menu is an affirmation and what really sold me was when I actually stepped foot into the place. I ordered the I AM IMMORTAL(which is an Ayurvedic Latte with chaga, shiajit, reishi, he shou wu and raw honey steamed in any of your choice of milk substitute), I AM ECLECTIC( buffalo cauliflower with vegan ranch) and I AM PHONOMENAL(Shiitake & smoked tofu Pho). As you are ordering the waiter/waitress repeats the affirmation to you which if you don't already makes you feel so empowered and uplifted. Not to mention the baked goodies they have just waiting for you to order after your meal. The food was amazing and didn't disappoint and on more than one occasion my eyes were bigger than my stomach. The I AM IMMORTAL was amazing!! I normally go for their I AM GOLDEN(which is a turmeric latte with raw honey and black pepper essential oIL) but I was drawn to trying something different and like always listening to my intuition paid off. The I AM IMMORTAL has this earthiness to it that is't over bearing and the raw honey adds the perfect amount of sweet smoothness to it making it the perfect balance for the mushrooms that make up this blend. The I AM ECLECTIC didn't disappoint either. At first I was kind of skeptical about the vegan ranch because most alternatives to food dressings that have milk in them tend to either lack in flavor or have a weird after taste. I can assure you this ranch didn't have either. The cauliflower was seasoned and dressed to perfection. The I AM PHONOMENAL was filled with aromatics which left me leaning over my bowl taking in the delicious smells of the spiced miso broth as my glasses fogged over. One bite into the smoked tofu and I was in Tofu Heaven. If they just have me a bowl of tofu as my last meal I would die a happy woman but the tofu isn't the only star of this dish. For me the star is this dish in it's entirety, every ingredient balances out the other the fresno chilis, Thai basil and spices brings the heat to balance out the sweetness of the miso. The rice noodles, spinach, and mung bean sprouts cut down the heat from the spices and chili, while the pickled carrots, and red onions add the perfect bite and bitterness. All in all this is one of my go to places not just for the aesthetics but for the atmosphere and defiantly for the food.

The IM IMMORTAL. An Ayurvedic Latte with chaga, shiajit, reishi, he shou wu and raw honey steamed in any of your choice of milk substitute.

THE I AM PHONOMENAL An Shiitake & smoked tofu Pho.

2. Breakfast Republic

707 G Street San Diego, CA 92101

This was the very first place I ventured out on my own to on my first layover in San Diego. I was tired of being in my room and wanted to get some sun. I looked on Yelp for local breakfast places and Breakfast Republic caught my eye. I happened to walk to this place on one of it's busiest days, the place was packed! But lucky for me there were seats open at their bar. The design in this place has pops of color and quirk that brings out the inner child in you, from the cracked egg chairs to the yellow bar chairs and dinning chairs. The bar staff, waiters/waitresses and hosts all have vibrant personalities that just add to the character of the place and makes the experience even better. I had the Oreo Cookie Latte and it was tasty and was added to my list of Oreo flavored favorites. The restaurant has an abundance of drinks from morning cocktails, mimosas, beer, Kombucha, coffee and other non-alcoholic beverages. I had the Crab and Crawfish Cake Benedicts and it was beyond delicious. I sat at the bar for an hour and a half just eating and chit chatting with the staff, who were so amazing and extremely friendly.

The Oreo Cookie Latte

The Crab & Crawfish Cake Benedicts

3. Cloak & Petal

1953 India St San Diego, CA 92101

This place was introduced to me by a coworker and I am so glad she decided to share such a place. As soon as you walk in you are greeted by a bar with cherry blossom trees on either side. The graffiti art and the Japanese subway etiquette posters transports you to the shadows of Japan's underground with art work of rap legends hanging on the walls and small tv's playing anime. The atmosphere just oozes secrecy and mystery which is perfect if you are looking for some privacy to share an intimate dinner with a lover or with friends. The drink menu follows the Japanese theme with their cocktails and their selection of Sake, they also offer wines and various draft beers. I had the Japanese Mule(which is their twist on the Moscow Mule) and it absolutely did not disappoint and if I didn't have to work a flight the next day I would have given into temptation and tried the Tea Ceremony which has matcha infused vodka. Now for what you've been waiting for.... the food. Cloak and Petal offer an array of traditional sushi rolls along with sushi rolls that they've put their own spin on. I started off with the chicken Gyoza followed by their Face It, You're Basic roll and their Crazy Usagi roll. Let me tell all of you that none of the dishes were lacking in flavor. The perfectly cooked and seasoned chicken in the Gyoza right down to the soy rayu vinegar sauce it sat in left me excited for the sushi rolls. I hit the ground running with the Crazy Usagi, which happened to be a vegan roll made with seasonal vegetables, vegan miso aioli, yuzu gel, smoked salt, renkon, tomatoes, lemon oil, micro greens and sesame seeds. The Face It, You're Basic was anything but basic. The panko shrimp, avocado, krab, tempura crunchy flakes, spicy aioli and the sweet soy sauce reduction almost had me tapping out with two pieces left to go. The food and drinks were so good I added it to my rotation of eateries for the next time I'm in town.

The Chicken Gyoza.

The Crazy Usagi.

4. Salt & Straw

1670 India St San Diego, CA 92101

On my recent layover my crew and I stumbled upon this place after walking back from grabbing dinner at Cloak & Petal. One of the ladies from my inflight crew strolled into the ice cream shop wanting to replace the drink she wanted with a sweet treat and the hypnotizing smell of waffle cone beckoned me and the remaining two members of my crew in as well. I don't know about any of you readers but it is humanly impossible for me to walk into an ice cream shop and not buy a cone. It's like the smells of waffle cone and sweet cream brain washes me and before I know it I'm walking out cone in hand with a smile on my face. It also doesn't help that ice cream makes me feel nostalgic. Salt & Straw is not your run of the mill ice cream parlor. It's not your Baskin Robins nor is it Coldstone and while there is absolutely nothing wrong with the previously stated ice cream conglomerates, Salt & Straw offers a unique experience of its own, from the flavors down to the employees. Two of my coworkers ordered the Cinnamon Snickerdoodle, the other ordered Wild Foraged Berry Slab Pie. While in line I was mulling over what I had a taste for because it wasn't until I was in the store that I had decided that I wanted ice cream and while the vegan options sounded good, they didn't peak my interest. But then there was one that immediately caught my eye and I knew I had to taste test it. I am adventurous in every sense of the word and I will try anything twice so when I saw they had Strawberry Honey Balsamic w/Black pepper ice cream I knew I had to try it. I asked the clerk for a sample and as soon as it hit my tongue my tastebuds were alight with delight. It. Was. So. Good. The tangy bitterness of the balsamic mixed with the sweetness of the strawberry is pure unadulterated bliss. If the person who created this flavor was standing in front of me in that moment and even as I type this I'd kiss them and thank them for their creative genius. Do you know how bold and daring you have to be to mix such flavors? I'm literally having flashbacks as I type this, that's how good it was. By the time the thought had crossed my mind to take a picture I was already eating the cone. So please if you are ever in the San Diego area do yourself a favor and grab a cone(or a cup) from this place.

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