What kiddo doesn’t like good Italian food? The combination of basic ingredients like cheese, tomatoes, olive oil, and dough can create so many delicious dishes that big and little bellies have come to love! This popular cuisine has won over the world, and here in San Diego, we even have our very own Little Italy. You’re guaranteed to find great spots there, but don’t forget about the hidden gems located throughout the city. Here are six Italian restaurants that will have your family transported to Italy and singing “That’s Amore!”
Photo credit: Danny N. via Yelp
Filippi’s Pizza Grotto
Family-owned and operated since 1950, Filippi’s is known as a go-to spot for Italian food in San Diego. Head to their flagship location in the heart of Little Italy, or to one of ten locations throughout the county. Each restaurant offers a casual and cozy atmosphere, perfect for families of all sizes. While famous for their mouth-watering pizzas, come hungry because Filippi’s also serves up huge portions of reasonably-priced pasta dishes and Italian dinners. Kids will love the fun décor with checkered tablecloths and bottles hanging from the ceiling. But after feasting on yummy pizza and pasta, you may have to carry them out.
Insider’s Tip: The Little Italy location is the only one that does not take reservations. So be prepared to wait in line if you arrive at prime-time. But one bite and you’ll see why it’s worth the wait.
1747 India St.
San Diego, Ca
Photo credit: Buona Forchetta Facebook Page
Located on the perfect little corner in South Park, this charming neighborhood spot is serving up award-winning pizzas and Italian specials that your whole family is sure to love. Buona Forchetta was even featured by Food & Wine for having one of America’s coolest pizza ovens (the oven is named Sofia after the owner’s first daughter). Start with one of their amazing appetizers like calamari or a family favorite “pizzelle,” then choose between more than 30 different kinds of Neapolitan-style pizzas, or one of their daily pasta specials. If your kiddos aren’t crazy about your specialty pizza selection, Buona Forchetta is happy to accommodate requests for simple favorites like cheese pizza or buttered noodles. They don’t take reservations, so go for an early dinner to avoid a long line.
Insider’s Tip: The twinkle-lighted outdoor patio is not only festive and fun, but also dog-friendly. So Fido will feel right at home as your family dines al fresco.
3001 Beech St.
San Diego, Ca
“Il fornaio” means the baker in Italian, and after taking one bite from the bread basket, you’ll see why they’ve coined that name. But try not to fill up on too much of that delicious wood-fired oven baked bread because there’s a lot more to the menu. The pastas, pizzas and authentic Italian specialties are prepared using the freshest ingredients and traditional cooking techniques to give you a true taste of Italy. Kids will have fun drawing the Mona Lisa on their menu, while choosing between yummy options like pizza, macaroni and cheese, or chicken tenders. Be sure to complete your meal with a scoop of gelato or a very generous piece of tiramisu for the table to share.
Insider’s Tip: Whether dining at their Coronado or Del Mar location, be sure to request a table on one of the outdoor patios so you can enjoy the amazing view, and maybe even catch the sunset.
1555 Camino Del Mar #301
Del Mar, Ca
1333 First St.
Photo credit: Juls B. via Yelp
Mimmo’s Italian Village
When you walk into Mimmo’s, your family will be transported to the streets of an Italian village at night with amazing architecture, tall brick walls, and soft lighting. Start by enjoying one of their sharable-sized appetizers like calamari or the meat and cheese platter. Everyone is sure to devour the delicious homemade Italian bread that arrives at your table, served with garlic-pepper olive oil. With so many options on the menu, you’ll have a hard time choosing between specialties like homemade lasagna, chicken parmigiana, or cavatappi sausage pasta. The kids menu features pint-sized Italian entrée favorites like pizza or pasta, and includes a drink and a scoop of ice cream, all for just $8.
Insider’s Tip: You must save room for one of their decadent desserts like homemade cannoli or tiramisu.
1743 India St.
San Diego, Ca
Photo credit: Lori N. via Yelp
Domenic’s Italian Ristorante
This hidden gem located in Poway has been a family favorite among locals for more than 20 years. Domenic’s offers a cozy indoor atmosphere with twinkle lights hanging from the ceiling and Italian music playing softly throughout the restaurant. The extensive menu includes authentic pasta dishes, chicken, veal and seafood entrees, as well as gourmet pizzas. But first, you’ll start by enjoying a complimentary basket of heavenly garlic knots and marinated carrots for the table. Kids will love this place not just for the food, but also because instead of crayons and paper, the kids will get a ball of play-dough (as in real pizza dough!) to sculpt into whatever their hearts desire while they wait for their food — genius! Hopefully you have save room to enjoy a slice of Domenic’s mom’s famous tiramisu.
Insider’s Tip: If you’re craving some vino to accompany your meal, try a glass of the self-serve Chianti located at the front of the restaurant.
12719 Poway Rd.
Don’t let the location of this small yet charming restaurant fool you. Cucina Basilico is a great family-owned neighborhood spot in Serra Mesa serving up deliciously fresh Italian food. Choose one of their flavorful homemade pastas of the day, like wild mushroom gnocchi, spinach fettuccini, or sun-dried tomato pappardelle — all made from scratch. Then pair it with one of their 11 different homemade sauces. Organic chicken entrees, oven-baked specialties, as well as gluten-free pasta and vegetarian options are available as well. Kids will love picking the perfect pasta and sauce combination that is exactly to their liking. If they’re not in a pasta mood, they won’t go wrong with organic chicken fingers!
Insider’s Tip: Make sure you save room for one of their homemade desserts — the tiramisu one of the best in town!
3755 Murphy Canyon Rd
San Diego, Ca
Tell us about your favorite family-friendly Italian restaurant in the comments below!
— Kelly Powell