Part 1: San Diego Restaurant Takeout Day Trips: Little Italy.
In the COVID-19 Era, a San Diego restaurant takeout day trip serves up multiple benefits. No, you can’t grab a table at your favorite eatery right now. But most restaurants have makeshift storefronts open where you can pick up burgers, pizza, sushi or whatever your palate craves.
Hey, you have to eat to live. And along with nourishment, a takeout run also offers: exercise, a legitimate reason to leave your house, and financial support for a hard-hit industry. Last but no way least, going for takeout can be a vital—if brief—outlet for human interaction.
My daughter and I recently walked a loop in Little Italy. In pre-dystopian times, this area was one of San Diego’s best neighborhoods for dining options. Coronavirus be damned, it still is.
We stopped at nine places—old haunts, like Filippi’s and Buon Appetito; and new spots, including Zinqué and Holy Paleta. (See below for an abbreviated directory, which includes Pandemic Hours of Business.)
During our epicurean excursion, we practiced proper social distancing and mask precautions. On top of everything we gleaned, we were most amazed at the spirit, resilience and gratitude we found in restaurant workers manning provisional, make-do storefronts.
Little Italy Takeout
At Caffe Italia, Alex Curtis popped out of the kitchen in good spirits and full of gallows humor. “I’ll say this about the pandemic,” he quips, “the traffic has been great and parking in Little Italy is not the problem it usually is.”
Still smiling (under his mask), Curtis, a 13-year hospitality veteran, says he’s proud to see all the good that people are doing for each other. He mentions a soccer coach/customer who gifted the coffee shop a box of hand sanitizer. Other locals have shopped at the local Farmer’s Market and dropped off fresh vegetables.
“When there’s a line, people are patient,” Curtis says. “Usually people come in for a coffee and hustle out. These days, they’re stopping to talk. The lifestyle is different. People aren’t in such a hurry right now.”
Cloak & Petal managing partner Cesar Vallin says one upside to the current crisis is the discovery by customers that his restaurant does takeout. “It’s not going to pay all the bills, but we’ve definitely more than doubled out takeout business,” he says.
Several places, like 7-month-old Zinqué, are selling takeout items off the menu as well as market foodstuffs like eggs and cheese, notes supervisor Jonathan Watson.
Dessert spot Holy Paleta had just done a soft opening on Valentine’s Day. Just weeks later, the coronavirus put a kibosh on doing a proper grand opening. Working the shop by herself, Sara Vazquez says despite the short tenure she’s had a chance to meet a lot of locals.
“We have so many regulars from Little Italy,” she says. “It’s so odd to see the neighborhood so quiet, but it’s been a chance to get to know so many nice people.”
Daniel Contreras was working the counter at Underbelly. He’s got one person helping out in the kitchen. Contreras appreciates that he’s one of just a couple dozen people still holding a job among a 600-person company workforce (Consortium Holdings operates Underbelly, along with Little Italy’s Craft & Commerce, Morning Glory, Born & Raised, and several other San Diego bars and restaurants).
“I was conflicted at first about safety issues, but I’m really glad I’m working,” Contreras says. “There’s a lot of down time. And a lot of cleaning. But the reaction I get from people when they come here is amazing. They want their ramen. They’re stoked we’re open.”
Restaurant Takeout Little Italy Directory
Italian delicacies to go, and select wines are 50-percent off.
750 W. Fir Street, 619-450-4786, delivery and pickup
Pandemic Hours: 3 to 8 p.m.
People are ordering favorites like lasagna and gnocchi. Now offering 50 percent off all wine—plus, you can do a takeout order at the door and enjoy a glass of wine on the patio while you wait.
1609 India Street, 619-238-9880, delivery available
Pandemic Hours: noon to 8 p.m.
Get your grass-fed burger and a milkshake to go–and check out the market offerings, too, such as almond milk, avocados and an array of vegetatables.
1608 India Street, 619-237-7878, delivery available
Pamdemic Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Coffee and beverages available until 6 p.m., plus breakfast and lunch offerings until 2 p.m., when the kitchen closes.
1704 India Street, 619-234-6767, 3-mile-radius delivery
Pandemic Hours: 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. (kitchen closes at 2 p.m.)
Japanese offers that are both tradition and unconventional. Sushi rolls are popular, but bento boxes have also become big sellers.
1953 India Street, 619-501-5505
Pandemic Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and 3:30 p.m. to 7:45 p.m.
Traditional Italian deli is selling sandwiches or meats customers can buy to make their own sandwiches at home.
1749 India Street, 619-232-2120
Pandemic Hours: (Deli) 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; (Takeout) 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
This designer popsicle shop just opened its Little Italy location on Valentine’s Day—mere weeks before the coronavirus crisis. The frozen paletas are made in Bonita with all-natural, locally sourced fruit.
2040 India Street, 619-915-5366
Pandemic Hours: 2 to 8 p.m.
Pizza by the slice, full pies and paste entrees for lunch and dinner. The busiest time of day is the 6 to 8 p.m. dinner rush.
1827 India Street, 619-238-3502
Pandemic Hours: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Sister eatery to Bencotto, operating at the same hours, also doing 50-percent off on select bottles of wine.
750 W. Fir Street, 619-501-0030, pickup and delivery
Pandemic Hours: 3 to 8 p.m.
If the weather’s a little cold, it’s prime time for a heaping ramen bowl. There’s also a spectacular to-go beer special on tap—$9 for 64 ounces of surplus IPAs and other local brews.
750 West Fir Street, 619-269-4626
Pandemic Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Offering an extensive menu of breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner and drinks (including bottles of wine and beer to go). A popular special is the whole roasted chicken that comes with three sides, such as roasted cauliflower, potato gratin and ratatouille. Also selling market items such as eggs and cheese.
2101 Kettner Boulevard, 619-915-6172
Pandemic Hours: 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.-ish