Little Italy Al Fresco draws thousands to downtown San Diego

| June 19, 2020 | 0 Comments

(San Diego, CA) After seemingly innumerable weeks of staying at home to flatten the curve of the Covid-19 pandemic, hundreds of San Diego residents flocked downtown to enjoy the first ever Little Italy Al Fresco event on Saturday, June 13. Working in partnership, the Little Italy Association and the City of San Diego closed down a six-block stretch of India Street to create a promenade for safe, physical distancing strolling. From 4:00-10:00 pm visitors could wander the thoroughfare, visit open shops and dine at area restaurants.

Vlad Iacob and friends at Barbusa in Little Italy San Diego, CA. Enjoying dining in under the new San Diego, CA Covid-19 Protocols.

The term “al fresco,” generally refers to dining outside, and the big winners of Little Italy Al Fresco were the nearly two dozen eateries that were able to expand their footprint beyond their walls. As part of the reopening restrictions, restaurants were required to limit the number of patrons inside at any one time. With the al fresco event, they were able to set up tables along the sidewalk and into the street to take the place of those lost inside to the new distancing requirements. Establishments like Barbusa, Civico 1845 and Landini’s Pizzeria saw a steady stream of diners filling these extra tables.

“It’s a great event,” said P.J. Busalacchi, owner and operator of Barbusa. “People are excited, especially to be out after being inside for these last three months. It gives us a safe place to dine and give us some social distancing.” 

While the restaurant was able to maneuver their dining room so that each table was six feet apart, they did lose seating, especially in the bar area. This made the Al Fresco event even more important. “We got an extra 30 people outside due to what Little Italy and the City have done for us,” Busalacchi explained.

Civico Restaurant expands it’s seating into the streets as part of the Little Italy Al Fresco event.

Being closed for nearly three months was difficult, said Busalacchi, and required them to pivot to new opportunities. With the loss of on-site dining, the take-out business exploded. “During Covid our to-goes have spiked,” said Busalacchi, “going from maybe one or two a night to 25 to 30 a night.”

While the restaurants were clearly a major draw for visitors, the ability to stroll down a street that is normally packed with cars looking for a parking space was equally enticing. Families stopped at the giant red chair for photographs, friends met friends in a socially distance-friendly environment, and smiles were on faces everywhere. A group of musicians serenaded the crowd near the plaza, earning applause and tips from people happy to be out and enjoying San Diego once again.

With the success of Little Italy Al Fresco, the Little Italy Association is now looking ahead. Asked about the future, Association Chief Executive Administrator Marco Li Mandri confirmed that plans are in place to repeat the event on Saturday, June 20. Other neighborhoods are watching

the success of this first effort with an eye to putting together their own Al Fresco evenings. Could we be looking at the start of a new trend in the San Diego dining experience?

Stephen Prendergast, Correspondent 
Patty Ducey-Brooks, Publisher
David Kamatoy, Producer
Shot 2020.6.13

Visit for up to date information regarding Little Italy Al Fresco and Covid-19.

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