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Foodies are hungry for San Diego's Little Italy, a hub for top chefs

San Diego's Little Italy has become a hot foodie destination, with big-name chefs opening restaurants. But not to worry: The neighborhood has remained true to its heritage, with Italian-themed restaurants and festivals. You'll still find plenty of fine Italian fare from old-fashioned to new wave.

India Street, its hub, is always bustling, drawing crowds to its stores and sidewalk dining.

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The bed

A standard queen room at the Porto Vista Hotel in San Diego's Little Italy.
A standard queen room at the Porto Vista Hotel in San Diego's Little Italy. (Irene Lechowitzky)

You might want to think about staying at the Porto Vista Hotel, just steps from the heart of the neighborhood. Our standard queen-bed room was just 170 square feet but fine for an overnight stay.

The meal

The interior of Juniper and Ivy.
The interior of Juniper and Ivy. (Sean M. Haffey / San Diego Union Tribune)

The highlight is the hotel's Glass Door restaurant, with cool breezes and views of San Diego Bay.

The hottest stars of the sizzling food scene are Juniper & Ivy and Bracero Cocina de Raiz.

Juniper & Ivy touts the dishes of its "Top Chef All-Stars" winner Richard Blais. We had appetizers (lamb meatballs with feta and squash, and the best biscuit I've had outside of the South), beer and a strong White Summer cocktail (bourbon, vanilla, ginger, lime, mole bitters).

A larger meal followed at Bracero Cocina de Raiz, which opened last year and is packing them in. The eatery from Javier Plascencia, a high-profile chef in Tijuana, features modern twists on classic Mexican dishes.

We had a bowl of guacamole and shared four delicious tacos -- beef cheek, lamb neck barbacoa, beef tongue confit and Mexiterranean (gyro style) Adobada, each steeped in its juices with no need for salsa.

The find

Waterfront Park features 12 acres of paths, gardens and fun fountains for the children.
Waterfront Park features 12 acres of paths, gardens and fun fountains for the children. (County of San Diego)

If you need a break from the restaurant scene, Waterfront Park (1600 Pacific Highway) in front of the landmark County Administration Center, a grand 1938 Works Progress Administration project, is a fine spot to have a picnic and let the kids romp in the interactive water fountain.

India Street in San Diego's Little Italy is lined with restaurants and shops. Increasingly, the neighborhood is popular among foodies who are drawn not just to the classic Italian eateries but also to the fare turned out by a raft of inventive chefs.
India Street in San Diego's Little Italy is lined with restaurants and shops. Increasingly, the neighborhood is popular among foodies who are drawn not just to the classic Italian eateries but also to the fare turned out by a raft of inventive chefs. (Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

Miles one way from downtown L.A.

About 120

Resources

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Porto Vista Hotel, www.portovistasd.com; Glass Door restaurant, www.glassdoorsd.com; Juniper & Ivy, www.juniperandivy.com; Bracero Cocina de Raiz, www.bracerococina.com; Waterfront Park, www.lat.ms/waterfrontpark

Have an incredible road trip story or a useful tip? Share your memories and suggestions with us in the comments.

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