Italian restaurants in La Jolla: The ‘pesto’ is yet to come

Looking to spice up your daily rotini or craving the comfort of an Italian classic?

No need to book a European vacation just yet. If you’re craving the timeless charm and savory delights of Italian cuisine, look no further than our guide to the best Italian restaurants in La Jolla and prepare to enjoy an Italian feast worthy of an opera.

From intimate bistros to seaside trattorias, these culinary gems promise to satisfy every craving and transport you to the heart of Italy’s culinary traditions. Whether you’re yearning for classic pasta dishes or eager to explore inventive wood-fired pizzas, our curated selection of eateries will tantalize your taste buds and leave you craving more.

Join us as we delve into the mouthwatering world of Italian cuisine in La Jolla, where the ‘pesto’ is yet to come.

1. Bernini’s Bistro

plate of noodles, spinach, and chicken topped with capers served on a white plate at one of the many italian restaurants in la jolla.Reliably serving a breadth of salads, enticing entrees and more within an intimate space, Bernini’s Bistro aims to keep its loyal locals coming back. We can’t say no to their pollo piccata or spinach and ricotta pizza. Pair those with a glass – ahem, bottle – of wine from a well-rounded list, and we’ll stay for hours (or at least until we finish our chocolate ganache budino!

2. Cafe Milano

If being treated like part of an Italian family is your desire, look no further than the traditional fare being served up at longtime neighborhood favorite Cafe Milano. Pomodoro, puttanesca, primavera? They’ve got it. Caprese, carpaccio, capellini? No problem. The menu is a highlight reel of memorable Italian flavors, with a long kids’ menu and longer wine list, all presented within an old-fashioned vibe to make you feel at home. 

3. Candor by Giuseppe 

Tucked into a shopping center off Torrey Pines Road, this neighborhood spot by Italian restaurateur Giuseppe Ciuffa opened in 2019 with California-infused cuisine inspired by his native Rome. The grilled pear panzanella & burrata starter and orecchiette with pork-fennel sausage sugo are traditional with a twist, while the seasonal crudo is a fabulously fresh find. And don’t forget the wine! Candor’s extensive list doesn’t play favorites, including the best of many global regions.

4. Catania

Named for a Sicilian city, this Italian restaurant in La Jolla focuses on coastal fare from crudos and pastas to pizzas and more, earning it a spot in the Michelin guide more than once. The saffron-scented arancini will have you licking your dish, while the Italian cocktails (Ambra Negroni, anyone?) and an ever-changing wine list will have you coming back.

5. Isola Pizza Bar

woodfired pizza with arugula and shaved parmesan cheese on top served at one of the many italian restaurants in la jolla.Pizza in a wood-fired oven might be the standard, but the La Jolla location of Isola is not your average pizza joint. With elevated combinations like brie cheese, mozzarella and shaved asparagus and delicious versions of the tried-and-true classics like margherita, the pizzas at Isola are as satisfying as they are unexpected. But the menu doesn’t stop at pizza, so tuck into a carbonara or mozzarella flight while you’re at it.

6. La Dolce Vita

Hidden away from the street, La Dolce Vita feels like a mini-vacation to Italy. With an emphasis on authentic cuisine from many Italian regions, the traditional dishes are a nod to the best of the country, from the clams and mussels steamed in a fragrant broth to the penne Norma with flavorful eggplant. And as the restaurant’s name means “the sweet life,” we’d be remiss in not recommending the homemade tiramisu or cannolis. Treat yourself!

7. Marisi

With a focus on fresh, inventive dishes that depend on the season and responsible sources, the frequently-changing menu at Marisi is consistent in its flavorful Italian offerings. We’re partial to the homemade pastas in shapes new to us and the limoncello, made on site. And as often as we’re seated on the beautiful patio that reminds us of a garden on the Amalfi Coast with a wine recommended by the expert sommelier, we’re also relaxing at the gorgeous bar, sipping on cocktails with creative curations.

8. Osteria Romantica

Rustic coziness abounds at Osteria Romantica, along with fresh bread and pastas. All the treasures of Italy are available here, from minestrone soup and linguine with pesto to a cioppino of seafood lovers’ dreams. Generous veal, chicken and fish entrees (and the truly terrific ossobuco) will make you almost want to skip the limoncello mascarpone cake. Almost.

9. Piatti

No list of Italian restaurants in La Jolla would be complete without Piatti, a staple in The Shores since 1987. The trattoria-like feel extends from the dining rooms out onto the street, where a summer evening is definitely improved by a cocktail under the stars. The warm atmosphere continues with the food, whether you’re digging into the comfort of their lasagna or trying their veal piccata. And we always end our meals there with a cioccolata cake, though you won’t find us shying away from the affogato.

10. Piazza 1909

It doesn’t get more Italian in La Jolla than an open-space restaurant in a historic beach house. With a focus on northern Italian recipes imbued with creativity, Piazza 1909 prides itself on the “slow food”concept, offering dishes like the New Zealand lamb shank with gremolata and saffron risotto and an octopus carpaccio with pork cheek ‘Nduja sauce. There’s also an expansive vegan menu and impressive wine list, all ready to enjoy on the aesthetically-lit patios. 

Not full yet? Explore additional La Jolla restaurants here

Picture of Elisabeth Frausto

Elisabeth Frausto

Elisabeth Frausto has been reporting on and writing about La Jolla since 2019. With dozens of local and state journalism awards to her name, Elisabeth knows the industry as well as she knows her community. When she’s not covering all things 92037, you’ll find her with coffee in hand staring at the sea.
Picture of Elisabeth Frausto

Elisabeth Frausto

Elisabeth Frausto has been reporting on and writing about La Jolla since 2019. With dozens of local and state journalism awards to her name, Elisabeth knows the industry as well as she knows her community. When she’s not covering all things 92037, you’ll find her with coffee in hand staring at the sea.

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