A taste of Little Italy

June 27, 2022

   For someone growing increasingly reclusive as he ages, you wouldn’t think the words “street festival” would have any appeal whatsoever. Crowds of people jammed together, wandering aimlessly about and looking only to create long lines to stand in. No thank you.

   But the promise of pasta, marinara and sweet Italian sausage was like a Siren’s song to this wannabe spaghetti bender. So when Carol said she’d found a two-day Taste of Little Italy scheduled for this past week in San Diego, I was down before they had the chance to put the bread on the table.

15 stops of pasta heaven per evening

   In spite of the anticipation of orecchiette, basil and parmesan gracing my taste buds, I nevertheless steeled myself for what I anticipated would be an onslaught of fellow endomorphs waddling for position before trays of Rigatoni al Forno, Cavatelli al Pesto and Prosciutto and Veal Meatballs.

    The sign at the registration desk said SOLD OUT for both days. Yet the piazza and main street seemed breezily navigable. There were no long lines (save for the Gelato stop) and the food samples were for the most part served hot and fresh. It was a vision of heaven.

   ME: Is this heaven?

   St. Peter: No, it’s the Taste of Little Italy. I’ve actually just transferred here from the Pearly Gates myself.

   I’d calculated that the $55 per person per day ticket did not include wine. Except for a thimble of Malbec and a specimen-sized cup of Sangria, that turned out to be true. So we put our backup plan into effect, which included two plastic half-liter carafes of Chardonnay poured into Insulated bamboo cups to be camouflaged as coffee, and we strolled innocently beyond the No Alcohol Past Here signs feeling quite pleased with our pre-planning thinking.

ME: Is this heaven?
St. Peter: No, it’s the Taste of Little Italy. I’ve actually just transferred here from the Pearly Gates myself.

   Though we’d purposefully eaten light during the day, and arrived for the event with the proper amount of appetite for engorging oneself with Italian delicacies, we still managed to end each evening stuffed but still short of visiting all 30 of the venues open to us over the two days. The one I wished we had skipped was the Pacific Rockfish Ceviche, which Carol had talked me into trying. Ceviche, I think, is Italian for either “bait” or “gross,” and the moment that bite hit my taste buds, the alarms went off. Like Newman needing Honey Mustard after eating broccoli, I needed something quick to get the taste of fishing off a dock out of my mouth. Fortunately, Stop #4 with its Orichette with Broccoli and Sausage was in the next block.

The meatball as art

   The Taste marked our fourth trip to San Diego’s Little Italy, since first discovering this little gem last December. It, along with SD’s ocean and bay fronts (to say nothing of the city’s almost always perfect weather), has now made this our favorite new quick getaway. Also, the Padres are competitive in ways the Cubs and White Sox aren’t, and we are currently eyeing a potential division-deciding series against the Dodgers at the end of September for our fifth. Oh, yes, and Petco Park is walkable from our cozy boutique hotel in the heart of Little Italy.

   La vita è bella.

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