Little Italy's Food Hall is a hidden gem full of amazing food options. Sam the Cooking Guy joins us for a "virtual tour" of the Hall, some Little Italy "pro tips" and an exclusive sneak peek at his next cook book! Sam is going to make you want to jump in your car and head there right now. And he'll give you some great insights into all of Little Italy as well.
Click here for the episode page to listen, or read on for three things you MUST check out in Little Italy Food Hall!
Join us as we go ALL IN on Little Italy Food Hall with Sam the Cooking Guy and the three you MUST check out in Little Italy Food Hall:
- Piazza Della Famiglia
In the area that used to be Date Street between India and Columbia is now this incredible Piazza. There's a fountain that Sam says “looks like somebody went to Italy and stole a fountain and brought it back and rebuilt it here”. You can get a drink from one of two restaurants on the Piazza and drink outside. There are lights that go across the Piazza at nighttime, and honestly, it's really beautiful. There are umbrellas and tons of tables.
It's one of those few places in San Diego where you get there and you park, and once you get into the center of it, you feel transported. You really feel like, “wow, like, am I even in San Diego anymore?”
- Music and Events
Little Italy Food Hall has events happening all the time! Check out the calendar here to see what’s coming up.
Sam describes that “pre-pandemic, there was a guy who would come and sing Sinatra and Dean Martin kind of stuff, he had this big following of Italian women and they'd post up in a whole bunch of tables and it was charming AF and then there's other stuff that comes from time to time, different kinds of music.”
“Outside of Graze, one of our restaurants down there, we have a saxophone guy that comes and guitar and Friday nights are great. We love it. Music and lots of fun and lots of people, and the tables are all separated to be socially distant and responsible. And it's a really nice spot and you stand in the middle of the Piazza and you look West and you see Palm trees and then you see ocean and you see boats.”
- THE FOOD
The cool thing about the Little Italy Food Hall is it solves a problem that you have, whether you're going out with your spouse of 15 years or taking someone on a first date, you don't have to agree on what you want to eat - you don't have to have that debate.
If you want to have Chinese food, a bowl of noodles from Mein Street Asian Kitchen they're there.
If you want Ambrogio 15 Pizza (arguably some of the best pizza, I think, in San Diego… the guys are from Milan; they know their pizza.), it’s there.
There is Wicked Maine Lobster in there.
And, of course, Not Not Tacos is there.
And then we just opened up our second Samburgers location.
The concept there is this: not Mexican-inspired tacos.
Sam expanded by saying “Look, we're in San Diego. We have some of the best Mexican food in the country. There is no question, nobody can count the number of taco shops that San Diego has. The last thing San Diego needed was a Jewish boy from Canada, bringing Mexican tacos here.”
“What do you need to make it a taco? You need a tortilla. So, the stuff that we have are things like Korean short rib and smoky pulled pork with macaroni and cheese… and, we have a cheeseburger taco. Funny enough, whenever I'm with anybody and they try it, they go, ‘Oh, my God, it tastes just like a cheeseburger.’ I go, that's why we called it that.”
Not Tacos also has a Mediterranean lamb taco with Siddiqui on the tortilla. And their tortillas are amazing with a mashed potato taco. Sam added “of course, it's served with potato chips on top because that's a requirement. You need some textural component to what would otherwise just be a fairly, soft kind of taco.”
They also have a hot dog taco which Sam describes as “it's so simple, but all it gets is some yellow mustard and a New York style, dirty water onions like you would get off of a hot dog cart in New York.”
AJ’s personal favorite is the pastrami and it has horseradish and mustard and the coleslaw. There are dill pickles on top of it. There's a melted Munster cheese. They finish it on the flat top, so it starts to get crispy and the fat melts a little bit. And then the cheese melts on top of that, it goes onto crispy onions. Sam named it after his grandfather, Izzy.
The point of Samburgers is you go in, you choose the burger you want, then you choose your protein.
There is the ground beef blend, which is chuck brisket and short rib, and so delicious. You could have ground chicken (Sam said “we use chicken thighs and honestly our teriyaki bacon burger with the ground chicken Patty is ridiculous”). There's also a ground salmon, and then Beyond Meat.
There are four types of protein and six different burgers you can get. There's the “not-so-basic basic” (which is kind of ShakeShack-ish), there’s a jalapeno, a teriyaki bacon, a blazing saddles (that's a little bit spicy), double bacon cheddar and double fisted.
Then, get fries or tots, or whatever on the side (Sara loves the tots). It's all good. They've got some great sides.
BONUS TIPS: Parking and the Little Italy Farmers Market
Bottom line: you park a few blocks away and then you jump on a Lime or you walk. It’s not terrible. You get to walk through fricking Little Italy! There’re all kinds of pasta meats and cheeses and salamis, and the stuff's hanging in the window. Sam added “this is the largest Little Italy, wait for it... Not in California, not in the Western United States, but in the country.”
Certainly at nights on weekends parking is really at a premium. The Little Italy Farmers’ Market, (which Sam says “I think is arguably the best farmers’ market in town”) is Saturdays from 8:00 AM to 2:00 PM. It's five blocks long. It's really great. Saturdays, daytime up to 3:00 PM, it’s impossible to park.
Additionally, the Little Italy Association guys in blue LIA shirts with orange vests set up for the farmer's market and they keep it pristine. These are the little beavers in the background that make this place really spectacular.
Also in this episode, you’ll hear a SNEAK PEEK OF SAM’S BOOK and his DISH ON FOOD NETWORK STARS.