Anybody visiting San Diego’s charming, restaurant-blessed Little Italy is aware of. Train warning or it’s possible you’ll return house wider than you’re tall. It’s oh really easy to do. The honey-drizzled Ligurian focaccia di Recco at Davanti Enoteca. The seared wagyu at Born & Raised. The souffled pancakes at Morning Glory!
The eating places — each the Italian ones and the non-Italiano — on this 48-square block space are irresistible. However Little Italy’s location, tucked so near the waterfront and with a wonderful lodge proper in its midst, makes it a beautiful base for exploring town on foot. And the extra you stroll, the extra pastries and pasta you possibly can get pleasure from in, say, the Piazza della Famiglia. The ten,000-square-foot Italian-style plaza opened a 12 months earlier than the pandemic, wooing passersby with its market corridor, pedestrian-only expanse, umbrella-shaded cafes and splashy fountain. And extra eating places.
So on this explicit sunny weekend, we’ve tied our tennies and headed out, decided to get some steps in — after a cease, in fact, at James Espresso to choose up creamy, iced honey-cinnamon lattes. (If croissants, tarts or lavender lemon blueberry cupcakes are extra your breakfast type, we received’t choose. The charming Frost Me Cafe within the Piazza della Famiglia has all these issues and espresso, too.)
We’re headed for the waterfront, a 15-minute stroll away, looking forward to a blast to Little Italy’s maritime previous — and California’s too. A century in the past, greater than 6,000 Italian households lived and labored right here on this Italian quarter, a lot of them within the fisheries that made San Diego the tuna capital of the world. Canneries dotted the docks from the tip of Laurel Road to Barrio Logan. By the Thirties, San Diego historians say, business tuna fishing had joined the Navy and aerospace because the area’s three largest industries.
As we speak a 12-acre park runs alongside the waterfront close to Little Italy, providing interactive fountains with kid-friendly splash zones, colourful playgrounds and grassy public expanses — and the spectacular sight of historic ships tied as much as the docks.
The ships are a part of the Maritime Museum of San Diego, whose treasures embody the nineteenth century Star of India; the Californian, the state’s official Tall Ship; and a meticulously reconstructed, working duplicate of the San Salvador, Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo’s sixteenth century galleon. When the Spanish conquistador dropped anchor in San Diego Bay in 1542, he turned the primary European to discover what’s now California.
Time your go to proper, and you can’t solely discover the ships, you possibly can set sail on a few of them, too. On this explicit day, we’re hoping to take a historic harbor tour aboard the Pilot, a 1914 pilot craft that guided all the large business ships getting into and leaving San Diego Bay for greater than eight many years. It’s fairly presumably one of the best deal in San Diego — $15 plus museum admission for a visit out on the glistening, sun-dappled waves, sea breezes in our hair. What may very well be higher?
Properly, 4 extra individuals for starters. It’s shoulder season — you received’t have this downside this summer time — and there aren’t sufficient passengers to solid off.
In order we await extra would-be sailors to hitch us, we browse the displays, exploring maritime historical past from the period of Cabrillo by means of the age of the good crusing ships and steam-powered vessels, the rise of the U.S. Navy presence in California and the business fishing period, when tuna was king.
We revel within the tales of the Star of India, the world’s oldest energetic crusing ship. Constructed on the Isle of Man in 1863, the windjammer went on to circle the globe 21 instances. The ship’s first journey was a visit to India that concerned a collision — after which a mutiny. On its second journey, it encountered a cyclone so intense, the ship barely survived. (We’re astonished there was a 3rd voyage, not to mention 21 of them.)
As we speak, you possibly can discover the officers’ quarters and the wonderful, wood-paneled eating room, gaze up into the rigging, scramble under deck and, in fact, pose for selfies on the big ship’s wheel — or subsequent to one of many kraken tentacles creeping up the masts.
The latter is a teaser for an exhibit dedicated to mythic sea monsters housed within the maintain of the ship — er, the exhibit is within the maintain, not the monsters. To not our data, anyway. A assured kid-pleaser, this summer time’s exhibit combines science and lore with just a few cheeky asides, such because the vintage bookcase holding volumes of “Moby Dick,” “Wuthering Depths” and “Tess of the D’Underwatervilles.”
Kraken apart, shipboard tableaux on each the Star of India and the San Salvador provide simply sufficient element to convey life aboard ship. It’s as much as your creativeness to fill in the remainder. These conquistador helmets and swords tossed so casually on a bunk aboard the San Salvador? Clearly, the hatless proprietor is down within the galley, checking to see if tuna is on the menu — maybe served with a pleasant tempranillo.
We pause to test on the passenger progress on the Pilot — none! — earlier than boarding a restored steam-powered ferry from 1898. The Berkeley comes by its title truthfully. It could be in San Diego now, however it plied the waters of San Francisco Bay for 60 years. Within the aftermath of the 1906 earthquake, the crew spent days and nights rescuing survivors from the shores of the burning metropolis and taking them to security. It’s an attractive ship, crammed with ethereal areas, shiny woodwork and stained glass.
There might not be sufficient passengers for that Pilot cruise, however on the upside, having these spectacular ships to ourselves on a quiet day is heaven. And subsequent time, we’ll be higher ready — we’ll carry the entire household! — and check out one of many different “On the Water Adventures.” There’s a 75-minute naval historical past tour aboard a Vietnam Struggle-era Swift Boat, and a four-hour sail on the Californian, its Tall Ship sails unfurled to catch the breeze. And the San Salvador is embarking on two, multi-day ocean voyages this summer time the place even non-sailors can hoist the sails, tie knots and study Channel Islands island archeology and Spanish maritime historical past.
In the meantime, dinner awaits again in Little Italy at Ironside, the hip nautical-themed restaurant the place piranha skulls line a whole wall (sure, actually!), the mai tais are served in fish goblets and the lobster rolls delight. Ahoy, matey!
If You Go
Maritime Museum of San Diego: The museum is open from 10 a.m. to five p.m. every day on the Star of India Wharf, 1492 N. Harbor Drive. Admission is $10-$20, with elective add-ons together with a historic harbor tour ($15). “On the Water” adventures vary from a Swift Boat naval historical past cruise ($20-$40, together with museum admission) to a Tall Ship crusing journey ($25-$119). The San Salvador Channel Islands voyages ($2,259) will probably be Aug 21-26 and Aug 27-Sept 1. Discover particulars at https://sdmaritime.org
James Espresso: This espresso bar and roastery opens every day at 7 a.m. at 2355 India St. in San Diego; https://jamescoffeeco.com.
Frost Me Cafe and Bakery: Opens every day at 7 a.m. at 555A W. Date St.; www.frostme.com
Ironside Fish & Oyster: Open every day for lunch and dinner (reservations really useful) at 1654 India St.; https://ironsidefishandoyster.com.