Monday, February 24, 2014



     I arrived early one Friday morning to search for vintage in this ever-changing San Diego neighborhood of Little Italy—a perfect morning for a refreshing walk on another beautiful, 70 degree day in San Diego that just happens to be Valentine's Day.

      My goal is to find some of the early 1900 buildings that still exist. I start by walking up Kettner Boulevard where I locate the Standard Sanitary Manufacturing Company, 726-734 W. Beech Street. It was built in 1911 in an Edwardian commercial style of concrete cast to resemble quarried stone. It's a great building, and fortunately I took some photos, because I found out later that the city has approved its removal. It is to be replaced by a parking structure followed by a mixed-use-mid-to-high-rise tower. Oh dear, I was already lamenting at the loss of so many old structures in this area. I guess I better move along to see what else still exists before it too is demolished.


      Continuing to walk up Kettner it would be difficult to miss the Waterfront Bar & Grill, 2044 Kettner Boulevard. It turned 80 this year and claims to be the oldest tavern in San Diego. It is 9:30 am and some guests have already arrived. I expect they are starting to celebrate this Valentine's Day a little early. Perhaps they will still be around at closing when management serves cookies at “last call.” The inside is covered with old photos and memorabilia—definitely worth a visit. They serve breakfast and coffee as well, but I passed because I am still in search of the “real” Italian coffee place.

      I continued walking up Kettner Boulevard to Kalmia Street and turned right to India Street. Here I discovered the McDonough Cleaners/City Dye Works, 2400-2404 India Street. The 1930s Spanish Revival structure still exists and is currently the El Camino Restaurant &Bar. However, the vintage plain white structure is now psychedelic. It is gray with a yellow door, pink trim and a colorful splashy design across the side—topped with carousel horses. At least the old building is still there.


      Whenever I visit Little Italy, I feel compelled to stop at Filippi's, 1747 India Street. I'm not exactly sure why I love this old Italian place, but I expect that it has something to do with my upbringing. I grew up behind a grocery and meat market that my parents owned in North Minneapolis. My parents started their market in the 1930s and sold it in 1962.The De Philippis' family first opened their San Diego business in the 1950s. The front of the store is a small packed Italian grocery and meat market with a deli and restaurant in the rear. It is colorful with lots of stuff packed in and similar to a store you might discover in Italy today.

      I decided to stop at the pleasant and quaint Pappalecco, 1602 State Street. After being greeted with a “Ciao,” by the lady behind the counter, I placed my order, and sat down at one of the plain wooden tables to sip my authentic-bold Italian coffee. Yes, I finally discovered “the place” for Italian coffee in Little Italy.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014


"Always to go forward & never to turn back."                     -Junipero Serra

We are heading down the California coast, on our first road trip of 2014, when we decide to stop for a little taste of Scandinavia. Solvang (pop.25,245),which means “sunny field” in Danish, is located 46 miles west of Santa Barbara, and 15 miles north of the Pacific coast. It was founded in 1911 by a group of Danish educators.

With over one-half the residents being of Danish descent, the city council decided in 1945 to cultivate their heritage by developing a “Danish Village” to attract tourists. The Danish motif idea was clearly successful, because the city is currently a very popular tourist destination with thousands of visitors annually.

We had just finished our first Christmas away from Minnesota and missed Aunt Rozanne's Swedish smörgåsbord and my niece Mary Ellen's traditional oyster stew. (We searched all over San Diego for Swedish sausage and lefse without any luck.) No doubt, this little bit of nostalgia enhanced our appreciation for a “taste of Scandinavia” in Solvang. We loved our Danish dinner at the RedViking Inn enough to return for a second night. The Danish sausage, meatloaf, mashed potatoes, heavy brown gravy, pickled red cabbage and crispybread reminded us of our moms' home cooking.

The Mission Santa Inés, located on the eastern edge of Solvang, is a good diversion from “everything Danish.” It was built in 1804 on a hill overlooking the rolling green hills of Santa Ynez Valley. It is the 19th of the 21 California Missions that were built by the Franciscans between 1769 and 1823.

In addition to the beautiful chapel, there is a museum with significant original art work, including the only mission period painting by a native Indian convert.

Outside the mission, on a tree-lined path overlooking the rolling green hills, is the El Calvario. It consists of 14 wooden crosses, each with a colorful painting depicting one of the Stations of the Cross. The crosses, combined with a lovely setting, made this a very special place to linger.

“Always to go forward & never to turn back,” is a favorite quote that is frequently seen on plaques in the California Missions. It is by Junίpero Serra, who founded the first nine missions with the goal to convert the native Americans to Christianity and promote the Catholic Church. He started his journey from Mexico with a seriously infected leg and was clearly on a mission until his death in 1784.

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We also found time to enjoy wine-tasting. With over 80 wineries in the area, we had a lot of choices. Santa Barbara County, with its five distinct wine-growing valleys, is one of the top wine regions in the world. The local Pinot Noir was made famous by the 2004 movie “Sideways” which was filmed in Solvang and nearby Buellton. There is no end to picturesque wineries surrounded by vineyards, charming old towns, ranches and farmland. It is beautiful year-round, even in January, when the grapes are dormant, and the grass is not as green, and the foilage not as lush, as other times of the year. I  prefer the off-season for travel because it's less crowded, cheaper, and you can travel more freely, often without reservations. We were fortunate to have sunny, warm 70 degree days.

This was a nice leisurely place to hang out for a couple of days and I would like to return. I am kind of surprised that I appreciated the Scandinavian heritage as much as I did.