Discover what’s new in the downtown San Diego dining scene. Hot new restaurants for your radar are Bencotto’s ‘naughty little brother’ Monello in Little Italy, pizza pro Jon Mangini’s industrial Asian concept Gang Kitchen in East Village, edgy sushi joint Kamikaze 7 from celeb chef Kevin Roberts, and the innovative Italian-Japanese fusion eatery Sora in the financial district. Plus, scroll down for more foodie rumors.
Monello: Meaning ‘naughty little boy’ in Italian, Monello is a new restaurant from the owners of Bencotto, Valentina Di Pietro and Guido Nistri. Monello certainly is Bencotto’s mischievous little brother, located right next door in the Jonathan Segal-designed Q building on W. Fir in Little Italy, boasting an innovative bar program, street food-inspired menu and a warm, inviting atmosphere. Most notable, Monello now offers the traditional Milano aperitivo, which gives complimentary small bites to patrons with the purchase of a full price cocktail. It’s a sophisticated foodie happy hour, Italian-style. 750 W. Fir Street, lovemonello.com (pictured)
Ogawashi Sushi: This sleek Paul Basile-designed sushi spot is bringing new life to the downtown corner of 5th & C. Ogawashi is the newest project from local restaurateur Suyoung Yi who operates P.B. Sushi as well as WA Sushi in Kearny Mesa. The ‘fitted downtown space serves fresh Japanese sushi, plus Yakisoba and Udon hot noodle dishes, and a selection of healthy salads. Nosh on signature rolls, like the Sunrise, made of spicy tuna, shrimp tempura and avocado, topped with salmon, jalapeno and fire sauce. And keeping on trend, the name Ogawashi means ‘handmade.’ Now open. 1100 5th Avenue, ogawashi.com
Chaplos: Downtown foodies have long awaited the new project from chef Norma Martinez, formerly of the upscale Mexican eatery El Vitral in East Village. Chaplos is now open in the Cortez Hill neighborhood on the northern tip of downtown San Diego. Tijuana-born chef Martinez serves a menu of classic Americana dishes with Italian influence, such as the handmade ravioli, apple ale pork ribs, and gluten free arrabiata with meatballs. The old-timely bar menu matches the vintage interior décor. And bonus, there is wine on tap. Think: fabric walls, jewel-toned lamps, antique dark mahogany bar. 925 B St., chaplos.com
Sora: A new genre of Italian-Japanese fusion cuisine is now soaring in the downtown financial district. Sora, meaning ‘sky’ in Japanese, is a daring collaboration from chef Noriyoshi Teruya (Nobu) and industry expert Alessandro Minutella (Greystone Steak House, Osteria Panevino). Tokyo-born Teruya was selected as an anchor chef for the worldwide Nobu expansion, and picked up Italian influence during his travels. The Milano-Tokyo influenced menu, featuring uni risotto and cauliflower panna cotta with grilled lobster, is unlike anything else you’ll find cooking downtown. Now open. 655 W. Broadway, sorasandiego.com
Gang Kitchen: Coal fired pizza pro Jon Mangini (BASIC, URBN) is gearing up for the big unveiling of his debut Asian concept this fall. Gang translates to ‘steel’ in Mandarin, and Gang Kitchen is coming to life in a two-story, 5,000 sq. ft. warehouse space on Sixth Avenue. Despite the big success of his industrial pizza joints, Gang is the project he has been looking forward to the most. To bring the vision to life, Mangini partnered with chef Jo Ann Plympton and architect Graham Downes. You can expect fresh, health-conscious multi-Asian dishes served family style, and carbonated libations hand-bottled by house mixologists. Opening: Early December 2012. 345 6th Avenue, gangkitchen.com (pictured)
Kamikaze 7: Kevin Roberts is making moves in the Gaslamp Quarter. The cookbook author, former “Next Food Network Star” contestant and self-proclaimed ‘food dude’ first got his hands dirty downtown at East Village Tavern & Bowl, putting his twist on cool bar food. But don’t expect any wings or burgers at Kamikaze 7, his new venture taking over the former Shorelines Gallery space on Market St. in the heart of the Gaslamp Quarter. Kamikaze 7 will be an edgy sushi spot, putting the fun back into the dining experience. Translation: sake bombs welcome, real scorpions may appear in scorpion rolls. Roberts brought in Gregory Okshteyn (famous for being Jay-Z’s guy) and consultant group Jaime Partners (Searsucker, Flavor Del Mar), and traveled to Japan to research the cuisine, blowfish included, and climb Mt. Fuji. Sounds like a downtown hot spot in the making. Opening: March 2013. 411 Market St.
Fogo de Chao: Since Borders shut down last year, we’ve been on the edge of our seats wondering what new business will move into the huge, two-story structure on 6th and G Streets. Finally, word is out that Brazilian steakhouse chain Fogo de Chao is taking on the big downtown project. Fogo de Chao has multiple locations across the country, from Miami to Boston and Las Vegas. San Diego marks the second city in California, joining the high-end Beverly Hills restaurant. During the authentic ‘churrascaria’ dining experience, 15 cuts of fire roasted meats are presented tableside (filet mignon, lamb chops, ribs, etc.), paired with vegetables and Brazilian side dishes in the self-serve gourmet salad bar. Fogo will be the first tenant in the former Borders space, with more to come. Opening: TBD. 668 6th Avenue, fogodechao.com
More downtown San Diego food news & rumors:
The Keating Hotel’s Merk Restaurant is closed. Santa Monica-based Brick+Mortar took over the downtown space, opening up the chain’s first San Diego location.
Consortium Holdings is taking over the Ironside building on India St. in Little Italy. An ambitious project is in the works, to join the family of Craft & Commerce, UnderBelly, Polite Provisions, more. 1654 India St.
Ty Hauter of Good Time Design announced yet another downtown project. Hauter’s dual concept Blind Burro and Cat Eye Club are still under construction at the former Fleetwood space. Next up, Moonshine Flats is moving into his Culy Warehouse venue, which was previously only used for special occasions. 338 7th Ave.
A new cocktail haven is opening up on 5th Ave. downtown, in the space formerly occupied by Alambres. A guy by the name of Blake Thompson is teaming up with PJ Lamont (Bareback Grill, Raglan Public House) to create a craft cocktail destination restaurant to be known for weekend brunch. 756 5th Ave.
Discover more local foodie news in our San Diego restaurants blog