You know you’re in the right place for authentic Italian food when you spot Filippi’s Pizza Grotto just steps away from the bright lights of the Little Italy sign. The outside overhang of the restaurant proudly displays the colors of the Italian flag, letting you know you’ve arrived at a pizza and pasta haven. The owners Vincent DePhilippis from Italy and Madeleine Stefani from France arrived in America in 1922, met one another shortly thereafter, and married in New York in 1925. Twenty-five years later, they headed to San Diego where a restaurant legacy would begin.
They opened a little deli on the now famous India Street aptly named Filippi’s Cash and Carry which has expanded into a restaurant Empire with 14 locations from Imperial Beach to Napa Valley. All of the restaurants are owned and operated by the family members of Vincent and Madeleine and continue to use the same recipes that have been in the family for over 50 years. If you want traditional authentic Italian food then Filippi’s Pizza Grotto is the restaurant to choose.
Filippi’s Pizza Grotto Ambiance
A small store leads the way into the restaurant; this interesting aspect of Filippi’s gives guests a hint of what’s to come, as well as a place to shop for delicious food. You’ll find the smells of fragrant cheeses and cold cuts emanating from a deli service counter, and shelves stocked with Italian-style foods, spices, and canned goods. The walls are lined with imported beers such as Peroni, as well as an array of wines. It’s a great place to grab all the supplies you need to try your hand at making an authentic Italian meal.
Once you’ve surveyed the quaint shop, continue on to the restaurant where you’ll find several different seating areas. Each table, covered with a traditional white and red checkered table cloth, has dark wooden chairs. Depending on where you’re seated, the walls are either painted Italian murals or dark wood displaying Italian portraits. Chianti bottles, hanging from wooden rafters, completely cover the ceiling. Some sections of the restaurant have natural light flooding in through giant windows along the wall, while others have gorgeous sconces and red candle holders offering subtle lighting in an intimate space. The entire interior makes guests feel as though they have been transported to Italy, enjoying a delicious meal prepared by the local family eatery.
Tip: Order a bottle of Chianti; once finished you can write or doodle on it, and they will hang it up with the others, making you forever a part of the restaurant family.
Filippi’s Pizza Grotto Food
The menu is straight-forward and simple, in keeping with what Italian food is all about – fresh ingredients, delicious herbs, and traditional sauces. Guests can design their pizzas from an assortment of meats, veggies, and cheeses. The Special pizza is a fan favorite with a whopping eight toppings: sausage, pepperoni, mushroom, bell pepper, black olives, onions, meatballs and melted cheese. Filippi’s also has several classic subs, soups, and salads. There are many pasta choices such as spaghetti, ravioli, lasagna, and macaroni; guests pick their preferred meat and style of sauce. For the true Italian palate, try specialty items such as fettuccini alfredo, linguini with clams, or veal scaloppini cooked with mushrooms and wine sauce. End the night with one of their three delectable desserts, spumoni, cheesecake, or a cannoli.
Tip: Portions are true to Italian-style cooking and are quite large. If you’re counting calories or heading to an activity and don’t want to carry around leftovers, they offer half-portions which may be just right.
Filippi’s Pizza Grotto Details
The restaurant portion of Filippi’s opens every day at 11 a.m. and closes at various times throughout the week, the deli/store is open daily at 8 a.m. There is free guest parking in a lot next door. Sometimes, you’ll find a line out the door, so if you are in a rush you may want to call ahead to check on the wait time.
Filippi’s Pizza Grotto Neighborhood
Little Italy is one of the top cultural neighborhoods in San Diego, so before or after you grab a bite to eat at Filippi’s be sure to walk around. The Kettner Art and Design District is an area of high-end retail shops and art galleries. India Street and its surrounding cross streets are filled with art galleries, boutique shops, and luxury stores with furniture and housewares. You’ll also find several patio coffee shops, pubs, and gorgeous Amici Park.
When with children be sure to check out the Firehouse Museum, filled with firefighting memorabilia going back more than 100 years, a gift shop, and fun firefighting apparel to buy. A GoCar tour is another popular attraction in Little Italy, and a fun way to take a guided, narrated tour through San Diego. Little Italy is also close to Old Town, Balboa Park, and the Gaslamp Quarter, which makes it easy to enjoy a few of the other diverse San Diego neighborhoods.