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Little Italy Mercato Blog

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Dog Gone It

July 7, 2012 - 9:34am
Catt W


Somehow word has gotten around that the Little Italy Mercato is pet friendly. It's easy to understand how that's happened. Little Italy is possibly the most dog-centric neigborhood in San Diego, despite the small condos that provide most of our housing. Our market is on a city street, and plenty of our neighbors pass by on their way to the de facto dog park at Washington Elementary School. Vendors offer natural pet food, treats, and pet portraits in Amici Park at the market just east of State Street. And our staff is a dog loving bunch outside the market.

But CalCode, the set of regulations that govern food safety at restaurants, grocery stores and yes, farmers' markets and special events, is not so pet friendly. While not restricting service animals, those regulations require that live animals be kept 20 feet from places where food is prepared or stored for sale to the public. In a crowded market like ours, that's tough to accomplish if you're bringing your dog along to help you shop.

Aside from the health regulation issue, the Little Italy farmers' market with its amazing farmers and vendors, live music, and water view is a popular place. It attracts a whole lot of shoppers and Date Street can get tricky to maneuver, even without leashes and dogs below eye level making things harder. We don't want a shopper to trip and injure themselves or one of our canine friends. Pets can be stressed out in large crowds of unfamiliar people and may act unpredictably. That can't be fun for you or your dog.

So while we will never restrict service animals, and won't put you in an embarrassing or stressful situation by asking if your dog is serving a purpose covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act, we have posted larger signs reminding you of health code requirements, and we are asking our patrons to shop responsibly so the market can provide a pleasant experience for everyone. Because our two-legged and four-legged friends all deserve that treat!


July 6, 2012 - 12:35pm
Brijet M.

Get ready for sticky fingers and sweet tastes at the Little Italy Mercato! Peaches are in full force, find just the right ones for you at Smit Orchards and Lone Oak Ranch. Grab a handful of white peaches and puree them for a classic bellini; pick up prosecco at Filippi's or Mona Lisa in Little Italy and snag a basket of ripe rasperries from Pudwill Farms.

Take a dozen donut peaches home, you'll eat half of them on the way. With the rest, halve 'em, grill 'em, slip the skins off and rest on a plate of fresh burrata from Taste Cheese, then drizzle with honey from Mikolich Bees, crimson raisins from Smit Orchards and toss with almonds from Hopkins AG. Spoon that warm mixture over fresh burrata from Taste Cheese for a delicous, decadent brunch dish.

Make a peach trifle like this, substituting brioche from Belen Bakery for the pound cake and layering with slivered almonds from Terra Bella Ranch and raspberry jam from Jackie's Jam! Or just pick up a few yellow peaches, grab a napkin and devour as you shop the market! Peach out! 


June 29, 2012 - 9:48am
Chris S.

Get fresh figs from Polito Farm and Pudwill Berry Farms at the Little Italy Mercato this Saturday! Use black mission figs from Pudwill and fresh chevre from Nicolau Farms in this fig and goat cheese bruschetta, or make a classic Sicilian caponata by mixing figs with eggplant from Vang’s Farm or Suzie’s Farm. Adriatic figs from Polito Farm have a pale green skin and a bright pink, almost strawberry colored flesh; they’re especially sweet and perfect in desserts. Combine them with anna apples from Terra Bella Ranch and almonds from Hopkins Ag in this fig and apple tart. Ripe figs have a short shelf life, so plan to use them within two or three days; but we fig-ure they won’t last that long once you taste them!

We Want Mo' Cilantro!

June 22, 2012 - 4:56pm
Chris S

The distinctive fragrance of fresh cilantro fills the air around Valdivia, Vang’s, Maciel, and Gilbert Quintos’ farm stands at the Little Italy Mercato.  You’ve probably used cilantro in salsa made with tomatoes from JR Organics or in guacamole with avocado and limes from Heritage or Paradise Valley Ranch, but it’s also delicious in summer fruit salsas; try it with nectarines from Lone Oak, cantaloupe from Kawano or pluots from Smit Orchards. You’ll want to grab a big bunch if you’re making ceviche from Poppa’s Fresh Fish.

Cilantro is native to Europe and was popular in medieval cooking, but fell out of fashion there  in the 1600’s. It’s now most closely associated with Asian and Latin American cuisine, but it was once key in Italian cooking, and cilantro pesto actually predates the basil version that we know today. Pick up some chandler walnuts from Terra Bella Ranch and parmesan-reggiano from Taste cheese and try it out for yourself, tucked into quesadillas or tossed with Assenti's pasta.


April 13, 2012 - 4:31pm
Chris S

Ruby red rhubarb from Gilbert Quintos Farm adds a dash of color to the Little Italy Mercato farmers' market this week.  Look for long, thin stalks that resemble celery but with a characteristic crimson color and large, red ribbed leaves at the end.  

Botanically speaking, rhubarb is a vegetable, but it’s often regarded as a fruit due its sweet-tart flavor that makes it a favorite in desserts.  It’s traditionally known as “The Pie Plant” because of its popularity as a  pie filling, where it excels alone or in combination with strawberries from Kawano or JR Organics, or apples from Smit Orchards.  It’s also  great in Susan Russo's Rhubard Crumble using Pudwill berries, tarts, muffins, or a cheesecake made with fresh quark from Springhill Cheese Company.  

Something for Every Bunny

April 7, 2012 - 7:21am
Chris S

You’ll find everything you need for a magnificent Easter brunch or dinner at the Little Italy Mercato this Saturday. Begin with an appetizer of grilled asparagus from Suncoast Farms topped with a perfectly poached quail egg from Spur Valley Ranch, and a salad of Sage Mountain Farm’s organic greens, just picked strawberries from Kawano Farms and Nicolau Farm’s fresh chevre. Fill the bread basket with fresh-baked hot cross buns from Bread and Cie or Belen Bakery, brioche from Patisserie Soleil and croissants from Loic Patisserie.

Pick up potted basil, mint and parsley from Rivera’s Treasure Garden to make a super fresh salsa verde to spoon over grass fed lamb chops from Son Rise Ranch. Bring home honey from Mikolich to thicken a Lone Oak Ranch pomegranate juice glaze for a locally raised ham from DaLe Ranch. Polito Farms has tiny potatoes to roast alongside.

Paradise Valley Ranch has beautiful hand woven Easter baskets and they've already hard-boiled your eggs; the various breeds of hens there and at Schaner Farms means pretty colored eggs so there's no need for dye!  Or pick up a Wheat Grass basket from Suzie's Farm.

Buy a box of Caxao Chocolates' exquisite truffles, and add treasures like lavender sachets from Keys Creek or colorful toys from Casa Artelexia to make baskets for all ages.  Don’t forget flowers to give your table a special touch - JR Organics and Maldonado Growers have beautiful Calla Lilies and Hidalgo Flowers and Dram and Echter have gorgeous  bouquets ready to grab. Hoppy Easter to all!


March 30, 2012 - 1:52pm
Chris S

We’re making a slew of slaws from the fresh, crunchy vegetables at the Little Italy Mercato farmers' market this week.  If you think of cole slaw as a bowl of limp cabbage swimming in vaguely mayonaise-y dressing, you’ve been missing out on some great spring salads! Almost any of the fresh produce at the market can be made into a slaw, which is nothing more than fresh, raw fruits or veggies sliced thin and tossed with your favorite dressing.  

Stop by Suzie’s Farm and Smit Orchards to stock up for carrot-apple fennel slaw.  Lacinato kale from JR Organics, an avocado from Gilbert Quintos, and toasted almonds from Hopkins AG combine in this kale slaw.  Make up your own recipe using broccoli, cabbage or kohlrabi from Vang Farms; create a dressing of artisan oil and vinegar from Gianni's, citrus fruits from Paradise Valley Ranch, and Mikolich honey. Or use local olive oil from Marion's pastured eggs from Schaner Farms if you really like the mayonnaised version.  Just make sure everything in your recipe is fresh and local - it’s the slaw of the land!

Blood Lust

March 23, 2012 - 9:58pm
Chris S

The most popular orange in Italy, the blood orange or arancia rossa is also a favorite at the Little Italy Mercato and you’ll find them at Lone Oak, Gilbert Quintos, Schaner farms, Rancho Mexico Lindo and Polito Family Farms this time of year.

Blood oranges have a reddish tint on their peel, but it is the bright crimson flesh inside that gives the fruit its frightening moniker.  The flavor is a sweet-tart sensation with a hint of raspberry, and it adds an attractive splash of color to many sweet and savory dishes. Toss blood orange sections with your favorite greens (we like dandelion leaves from JR Organics), fresh chevre from Nicolau Farms and a little basil; dress with blood orange vinaigrette, of course, with olive oil and balsamic vinegar from Italianissimo.

Mix blood oranges with fresh fish from Poppa’s Seafood and cilantro and onion from your favorite farmers for a spectacular ceviche.  Use them to pep up any fruit punch or sangria, or substitute them for other citrus in your favorite pie or  tart recipe to make a striking desert presentation. We like this amazing almond tarte with blood orange compote. If you have an ice cream maker, blood orange sorbet is an exquisite treat not to be missed.  Blood oranges ripen only in the spring, so don’t miss out on your chance to enjoy them; pick some up at the Little Italy Mercato this Saturday!

Brrrrrussels Sprouts

February 24, 2012 - 4:54pm
Chris C


San Diego doesn’t have much of a winter compared to some cities, but the nights are still cool this time of year and it’s a great time for roasting winter vegetables in the oven. FInd my favorite, Brussels sprouts, at Suncoast Farm at the Little Italy Mercato. Grab some sweet yellow onions from Schaner Farms. The sprouts are rumored to be loaded with healthy glucosinolates and other things I can’t pronounce, but I eat them because they taste good, and they taste even better with bacon from DaLe Ranch.  
Fry up a couple slices of bacon, barely trim the ends and then cut the sprouts in half, slice the onions, and toss sprouts and onions in a little  bacon fat before roasting them in the oven at about 300 degrees until they turn soft and begin to brown. Sliced shitake mushrooms from Kawano Farms' booth or candy stripe beets from Maciel Farms make great additions, just roast them together with the other vegetables.  Leave the oven door open to warm up the house while you enjoy the sprouts as a side dish, or maybe over some fresh pasta from Lisko Imports as an entree. If you don’t dine on swine, skip the bacon and use a little California olive oil from Marion’s Olive Oil.

Another way to warm up with sprouts is to add them to soups or stews; they add a great flavor and a little crunch to any potato soup.  Roasted sprouts are also a fantastic item for dipping in fondue, and Taste Cheese just got in some great Alpine cheeses if you’re considering that route. When the evening chill creeps into your house, don’t say brrr, say brrrussels sprouts!

One Stop Valentine Shopping

February 11, 2012 - 8:12am
Brijet M

Rev up the romance at the Little Italy Mercato Farmers’ Market with everything you need to start your Valentines’ Day celebration this weekend! Treat your love to a delicious Sunday brunch, and don't forget to stash some goodies for Tuesday.

Get in the mood on Sunday morning with gorgeous berries from J.R.Organics, Kawano Farms or Pudwill Farms. Scramble farm-fresh eggs from Schaner Farms or Paradise Valley Ranch, and warm croissants from Belen Bakery or Bread & Cie. Squeeze the dozen plump oranges you grabbed from Lone Oak Ranch or Polito Farms and brew your favorite coffee beans from Café Virtuoso. (If it was us, we’d grab a bottle of Prosecco from Filippis and use some juice and raspberries to make pretty mimosas.) Put out the gorgeous Coeur Fleuri you got from Taste Cheese. Finish your beautiful brunch setting with an orchid in your sweetheart’s favorite color from Encinitas Orchids or Orchidanica, and you’ll be well on your way to creating a romantic Valentines’ Day this year. Stained glass heart cookies from Patisserie Soleil and gooey gluten-free bars from Olive Oil Café for dessert will melt your darling's heart.

Post-brunch or saved for Tuesday, jewelry is always a welcome gift! Select a hammered heart pendant from Lizzy B’s Vintage Jewelry or copper heart earrings from Angel Me. Choose a handmade paper card from Irrobat, and a carved ceramic heart from Fair Trade Décor at the top of the market to build just the right gift for your beloved.We have a great gallery of other ideas here.

Of course you can’t have Valentines’ Day without savoring something sweet!  While you’re at the Mercato don’t resist picking up Caxao Chocolate’s new ‘French Kisses’… dark chocolate liquid caramel mixed with chili and covered with a layer of rich dark chocolate. You know the way to your partner’s heart is gift boxes from Sea Salt Candy Company or Eclipse Chocolat. To satisfy your gluten free honey’s sweet tooth pick up a bag of gluten free Red Velvet cake mix from Sustainable Pantry, bake, decorate and serve before dinner.

Don’t forget a bouquet of fresh cut local flowers from Hidalgo Flowers, Maldonado Growers or Dramm and Echter, and firewood from Gilbert Quintos to set the mood. When it comes to romance, the Little Italy Mercato offers one-stop shopping!