monello / little italy – san diego, ca

Last month my old friend, Sarah, was in town for a short visit. Sarah is one of my oldest friends, who I’ve known since the ripe old age of 10. She was staying overnight in Little Italy and so I chose a spot nearby, a place I’ve been wanting to try forever: Monello! This was originally supposed to be our last stop on the Cheese Crawl, but we were all too full to go to another restaurant.

Jake was a little grumpy with me that I had picked a spot in Little Italy for dinner, since Little Italy is such a pain in the ass for parking. It was a Sunday evening and we managed to find parking about three blocks away on the north side of Little Italy, were it’s a little less developed.


[lupini beans]

Sarah was already there snacking on the complimentary lupini beans. They had a bit of seasoning and spice on the outside. You’re supposed to pop these out of the shells before eating them, reminding me a bit of edamame. I thought these were just okay.


[panzerotti / lightly fried mini calzones – $8]

These little fried calzones had caught my eye from looking at the menu and I just had to have them. The skin almost looks crispy like a wonton wrapper, gettin’ all bubbly.


Here’s the melted, gooey inside. It sort of looks like a creamy tomato sauce in there with a bit of herbs. The outside was puffy and a bit chewy. There was a very slight crisp edge to the outside though it wasn’t particularly crunchy. The crust stayed chewy, sort of the way a pizza is. I liked these, they were yummy though I wished they had more cheese inside of them.


[formaggi pizza / mozzarella parmigiano, fontina and gorgonzola – $16]

T ordered a pizza for his meal. I had a little bit and the blend of cheese was very good.


The crust was very nice, you can see a few browned spots on the underside. The middle was a little too soft, but the outer edges of the crust was quite nice.


[piadine porchetta (rolled bites) / herb roasted pork, fontina, arugula – $13]

Sarah ordered this porchetta rolled bite as her meal, but she was nice enough to share a little bit with us. The porchetta was super flavoful. I don’t remember what the “rolled” wrapping is, it sort of looks like a tortilla but I’m pretty sure that wasn’t it, haha. I think it was some kind of flatbread. The touch of herbs made this taste very bright and fresh. I’m generally not a fan of arugula but there was a minimal amount here so it didn’t annoy me.


[carbonara / bacon, pecorino, eggs, black pepper – $16]

I can’t decide if Jake’s dish or mine was my favorite of the evening. I know Jake liked his carbonara the best, and I have to admit that it was pretty damn delicious. All of the pasta is made in house here, and you can really tell the difference. It has a particular bite to it that sets it apart and elevates it. The mixture of the crispy, yummy bacon was really nice here and the carbonara “sauce” brought it all together.


[cacio e pepe / extra virgin olive oil, black pepper, pecorino, parmigiano – $14]

Myself, I decided to try the cheese pasta. This is very cheesy and kind of on the dry side since there isn’t really a sauce. But if you’re a fan of cheese, like I am, then you’ll definitely be into this dish. I did kind of wish for a little something to make it a little less dry, but I still really liked it. They also make maccheroni (which is like macaroni) and gnocchi. I almost got the gnocchi, but I had recently been disappointed by some gnocchi and didn’t want to risk it again. But I’d love to come back and try it now that I know the other things here are totally delicious!

After this feast and having an appetizer, I couldn’t justify getting a dessert. Though you know I wanted to. It just means we’ll have to come back to try dessert and I’ll have to get my paws on that gnocchi…

750 W Fir St.
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 501-0030

Monello on Urbanspoon

6 thoughts on “monello / little italy – san diego, ca

  1. I’ve never heard of panzerotti ! It looks like a deep fried sticky dumpling I’ve had at dim sum. I can totally understand Jake’s grumpiness about the parking in Little Italy. I had Porchetta for the first time this year and it was at the farmer’s market in SF. LOVED IT. I would love to visit monello is you think the porchetta was really good!

    1. Hi Faye – The porchetta was good though I think I favored the pasta a bit more since it’s rare you get in house made pasta! It was all really delicious, I’d love to go back and try the gnocchi, which is one of my favorite things. Their breakfast/brunch menu has also intrigued me just for the different kinds of cheesy things they have. Must re-visit soon!

    1. Yeah, I don’t do to Little Italy as often as I’d like to because of the parking situation (same thing with Downtown!). I want to try their “brother” restaurant, Bencotto, as well!

  2. Went to Monello once and still haven’t managed to be back. During happy hour they do a special where you order a drink and get small tapas style plates for free too!

    Oh and that carbonara looks magical.

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