Little Italy’s culinary explosion continues with the recent opening of Pan Bon (“good bread”) by sibling bakers Luciano and Giancarlo Anselmi. The brothers also own a bread shop in Verona, Italy, although their U.S. venture on the ground floor of Ariel Suites is a massive 10,000-square-foot emporium of gorgeous confections, deli specialties and prepared foods reminiscent of the displays you’d find at indoor markets throughout Europe.
The space doubles as a stylish restaurant, with ample seating to enjoy salads, pizzas, sandwiches, artisan cheeses and charcuterie. Pastries and breads are made daily, with the latter using wild yeast imported from Italy. There’s also lasagna and other pasta classics created onsite. 1450 Kettner Blvd., 619-373-5780.
The long-vacated Palm restaurant at Sixth and J streets Downtown will spring back to life with the March 16 opening of Water Grill San Diego, a 300-seat seafood restaurant from King’s Seafood Company, which also operates Lou & Mickey’s in the Gaslamp District. Like its flagship “grill” in Los Angeles, the menu will spotlight Pacific and Atlantic catches such as Santa Barbara prawns, wild Eastern scallops and an extensive selection of fresh oysters and fish. Leather booths and nautical décor will fill in the two-level space. 615 J St., watergrill.com.
Another newcomer in Little Italy is The Cheese Store, a bistro launched by farmers-market vendors Aaron Flores and his wife Marci. In addition to carrying more than 65 different artisan curds from California and Europe, the couple sells a variety of small-batch pantry goods produced by local vendors such as jams, honey and condiments. They also carry high-end charcuterie, including chili-fennel sausage crafted by Tender Greens Chef Pete Balistreri. 1980 Kettner Blvd., 619-544-0500.
A taste of The Emerald Isle arrives to Hillcrest via Oscar Wilde’s Irish Pub, which had its soft opening in January and plans a grand opening celebration soon. The establishment moves into the space of the original Gossip Grill and features traditional pub décor, a full bar and a menu of “all the good stuff,” according to co-owner and Irish native Kevin Gallagher.
“But the food comes with a little bit of twist,” he adds, referring to items like Shepherd’s pie, fish ‘n chips and bread-and-butter pudding. Irish breakfasts, imported beer and house-made Guinness ice cream also fill the menu. This is Gallagher’s second San Diego venture since opening The Harp in Ocean Beach nearly a decade ago. 1440 University Ave., 619-567-8249.
Crazee Burger in Old Town has closed. Coming into its place is El Charko, a family-owned restaurant specializing in Mexico City-style tacos. Born from a catering company, the menu will feature such fillings as traditional Campechano steak, chorizo and pastor. Hearty soups, grilled hot peppers and pecan pudding are also in the offing. 2415 San Diego Ave., 619-795-0908.
Create your own bento box at Artisan Bento in Bankers Hill, which held its grand opening in January. Customers get to pair multi-grain rice and miso soup to a choice of ginger pork, chicken, salmon or sashimi. A variety of create-your-own bowls are also available. The restaurant was launched by Shihomi Borillo, who also owns Azuki Sushi, and the chefs use “humanely raised livestock” and produce from local farmers. 2505 Fifth Ave., 619-231-0700.
The Chinese “Year of the Sheep” will be celebrated with flair during a free public event at 6 p.m., Feb. 20, at Wang’s North Park. Guests will walk a red carpet into the restaurant to partake in sake samples and good-luck hors d’oeuvres such as fish, noodles and dumplings. At 9 p.m., traditional lion dancers will perform to drums and cymbals to further ring in the new year. 3029 University Ave., 619-291-7500.
Chef-owner Mike Almos of Circa Restaurant in University Heights recently introduced “meatball Mondays” from 5 p.m. to closing every week. He created the deal “to make something warm and comforting for industry folk on Monday nights” while also opening it to the public. For $15, you get three hearty meatballs made with Duroc pork and King Ranch beef, a dish of pasta with marinara and warm focaccia bread, all made in-house. 2121 Adams Ave., 619-269-9152.
Tickets are reportedly selling fast for the upcoming San Diego Winter Brew Fest, scheduled from 7 to 10 p.m., Feb. 20 and 21, at the Hall of Champions in Balboa Park. The event features more than 40 craft brewers from throughout California and beyond as well as food and live music. Tickets are $40 in advance and $50 at the door. 2131 Pan American Plaza, sandiegobrewfest.com.