According to the Little Italy Association, the 48-square-block neighborhood was founded in the 1920s by immigrant Italian-American families, many of whom worked in the tuna fishing industry up until the 1960s and, indeed, the ‘hood is adjacent to San Diego Bay. Generations of Italians planted their roots here and built its convivial culture of patio cafes, Italian groceries, European-inspired public piazzas, authentic art and more. It’s very pedestrian friendly and the array of Italian eateries, mainly along India Street, is second to none.
Grab a Slice of Pizza … or a Cup of Gelato
Did somebody say pizza? In San Diego, Little Italy’s the right place for it. Not all restaurants are pet friendly, but it’s fairly easy to grab a slice and enjoy with your pets as we did at one of the outdoor tables along the main drag, India Street. Napizza, at 1702 India, has an amazing array of oven-fresh pizzas by the slice. If deep dish is your thing, cross the street to 1747 India St., home of the famous Filippi’s Pizza Grotto. While the restaurant itself doesn’t allow dogs, Sonny and Vito enjoyed perusing the Italian gourmet items in the little market space in the front. And for a cup of delicious gelato to go, we popped into Solunto Restaurant and Bakery, at 1643 India Street. Chocolate and cherry gelato in hand, we were feeling more Italian by the minute— and even gave Vito a few licks (of a scoop of vanilla).
Take Them to the Harbor
San Diego’s recently spruced up Waterfront Park is at the western periphery of Little Italy and is superpet friendly. Sonny and Vito loved the wacky and colorful sculpture of “The Serpent Tree” by Niki de Saint Phalle, which they barked at in unison before indicating they wanted to catch the sea breeze and watch the boats by the bay. These boats include the famous old Star of India sailing ship, part of the Maritime Museum of San Diego and others.
Take Them to the Little Italy Dog Park
Little Italy’s pleasant Amici Park includes not only a theater space and bocce ball courts but The Little Italy Dog Park, too. The Rosato brothers enjoyed running around this safe, enclosed space—although after all the pizza we ate, it felt like we should be the ones doing the exercising! The park is located on West Date Street between State and Union streets. And if your pooch needs some pampering, too, we recommend Spawtlight Dog Salon & Spa (technically not in Little Italy itself, but at 915 E Street, it’s not far).
Then Park Them at Hotel Porto Vista
The Hotel Porto Vista is not only located in the heart of Little Italy; it’s affordable and pet friendly, too. There are a variety of room types and even some short-term rental options for longer stays. The views of the bay and beyond from The Glass Door restaurant and rooftop lounge spaces are mesmerizing.
…or Paradise Point
Slightly further afield, but an easy drive, is the 44-acre Paradise Point near Sea World, a self-described private island paradise that has been attracting guests since 1962. Fast forward to 2017 and the original private island resort has expanded to 460 guestrooms from bayside bungalows to spacious suites with garden-style rooms and breezy patios. Best of all, it’s a dogfriendly property. While Sonny and Vito couldn’t access many San Diego beaches, here they had the run of the place, literally. The resort is pet friendly as long as Fido is on a leash and owners are willing to pay a one-time $150 charge. Personally, I felt it was worth every penny, as Don Vito and Sonny were reluctant to leave. Conveniently located nearby is San Diego’s popular Old Town, “The Birthplace of California,” a five-minute drive away. Sonny and Vito met other Malteses in this big pet-friendy space, too. Andiamo!
Retail: Wildside Unlimited (619) 237-0730
Amici Pet Hospital of Little Italy
Boarding: Hairy & Merry