Hungry, thirsty hordes of San Diego Italian food lovers are going to be saying, "hello, beautiful," soon to Little Italy, which launched a "Ciao Bella!" media blitz Thursday to help unveil an outdoor dining plan designed to bring the crowds back to the Mercato, the piazzas and more.
Little Italy's Mercato, of course, is the neighborhood's farmer's market, which was reopened as an appetizer not long ago in a smaller format with social distancing in place.
Soon, though, the Piazza Della Famiglia, the always popular, always sunny -- hey, we can dream! -- beautiful-people watching, traffic-free destination that opened two years ago on Date Street between India and Columbia streets, is about to get some competition. Thanks to new al fresco dining policies permitted by the city, patrons will be able to enjoy outdoor dining on Saturdays, starting June 13 at 4 p.m., on India Street all the way from Ash to Grape streets, as well as on Beech, Cedar, Date and Fir streets between Kettner Boulevard and Columbia Street. It will be foot-traffic only on those streets, as well, in order to help the restaurants expand their footprints, helping them make up for indoor seating lost to social-distancing mandates.
Diners don't have to wait two weeks to get a plate of Chicken Antonio at Mimmo's Italian Village, though: That iconic Little Italy anchor is already open for 6-foot-spaced dine-in restaurant-goers, as are many other bistros and cafes, including Bar One, Filippi’s Pizza Grotto, Landini’s Pizzeria, Caffe Italia and even Sam the Cooking Guy's joint, Graze, in the Little Italy Food Hall. We miss you, Sam!
A spokeswoman for San Diego’s Little Italy Association said it hopes about 50 percent of the area's 150 restaurants and shops will be open by Monday, with the balance expected to open their doors by that magic June 13 date. In the meantime, many if not most of the eateries are open now for delivery and pickup. Go here for an updated list of take-out locations or here for an up-to-date page of reopened shops and dine-in locations.
"We are thrilled to see life come back to our charming neighborhood and have the community say hello again with this inspiring campaign,” Marco Li Mandri, chief executive administrator of the Little Italy Association of San Diego, said in a news release on Thursday. " 'Ciao Bella!' ... illustrates our fortitude, and, no matter the times, our community will stay united and resilient as a neighborhood, a home, a business hub and, most important, as a famiglia.”
What to wear when you head down to Little Italy? You might want to be pick up some local merch when you arrive, specifically the new "They Are. We Are. I Am Little Italy" shirts that the LIA printed up to raise awareness and help financially support the Little Italy Business Crisis Fund and the shop, store or restaurant that sold it to you.
And if you're feeling lucky when you're down on India, be sure to snap a selfie of you air-kissing your bestie and upload it with the hashtags #CiaoBellaSD and #AirKiss. If you tag two local businesses and nominate three others to do the same, you just might be on the winning end of gift cards from some of Little Italy's finest.
Now, when can we just start calling it "Littaly" and save ourselves a couple syllables? Prego, San Diego, prego.