This month we launched “Ciao Bella!”, our reopening campaign, which included Al Fresco dining, and officially began welcoming the community back to our beloved neighborhood. Two nights of Al Fresco dining took place on Saturday, June 13th and Saturday, June 20th, where we closed India Street from W. Beech to W. Grape Streets including W. Date and W. Fir Streets between Kettner Boulevard and Columbia Street to vehicular traffic to allow some of your favorite restaurants wine and dine in the open-air.
Our charming neighborhood was the first in San Diego to transform the streets into open-air dining, and with 23 restaurants participating, we collectively helped start the trend throughout the city.
Most of the businesses in Little Italy are family owned, and about 18 of which are owned by Italian immigrants. Many of these hardworking families have had to shut their doors for the past several months or reduce seating capacities by at least half, so this unique dining experience has provided an opportunity to recover some of the sales that were lost over the last few months.
We saw incredible amounts of support from not only our local community, but throughout San Diego as diners were eager to support their favorite eateries. Notably, Mayor Kevin Faulconer held a press conference in Little Italy, recognizing the success and opportunity the initiative gave to our local businesses. Mayor Faulconer also discussed how he encourages other communities in San Diego to do the same and announced the city will be waiving all permit fees to help - saving organizations thousands of dollars.
Signs were posted on every block as a reminder to bring masks and maintain physical distancing protocols. On the night of, restaurants moved tables and chairs into the streets of Little Italy, turning the neighborhood into an Al Fresco dream. Employees suited up in their Ciao Bella! t-shirts, pins and face masks ready to welcome the community back. Guests’ temperatures were checked upon arrival as diners eagerly awaited their tables with seating capacities surging from roughly 50% to about 95%.
While we celebrated and rejoiced with friends and family during our first Al Fresco, we, unfortunately, have to face the fact that COVID-19 is not going away any time soon. We are constantly looking at feedback and taking into consideration how we can adapt and improve the experience in order to keep everyone as safe and comfortable as possible. Following guest feedback, our second night saw the installation of hand sanitizers stations along with the handing out of face masks to those without them.
It has taken 25 years for Little Italy to become what it is today and that is a mark of our resilience as a community and our love for our local businesses. Thank you for continuing to support us and believing in our famiglia. As we navigate this “new normal”, we are fortunate to have the opportunity for Al Fresco dining and look forward to bringing more opportunities like this to the Little Italy neighborhood.
“They are. We are. I AM LITTLE ITALY.”
To learn more about our latest reopening plans, visit CiaoBellaSD.com. For Little Italy COVID-19 resources and updates, visit LittleItalySDUpdates.com or follow us on Instagram @LittleItalySD, Twitter @LittleItalySD and Facebook @LittleItalySD.