Restaurant Guide: Customers flip for Filippi’s Pizza

by Kelly Hillock, Features Editor

Filippi’s Pizza Grotto establishes itself with a charming plaque above the door that reads, “Filippi’s, Since 1950.” Upon walking through the threshold, customers are greeted by a grocery store ­— and usually, a long line of hungry customers waiting to be seated.

The front half of Filippi’s is a deli, serving a variety of meats, cheeses and other authentic Italian foods. Patrons must weave through the narrow corridors of different specialty products to arrive at the hostess table.

Inside, the restaurant feels like the home of the Italian grandparents you never had. Chianti bottles hang from the ceiling, with messages scrawled on each one, written by customers commemorating their experiences. Red checkered tablecloths adorn each table, accompanied by a small tealight to add ambiance to one’s meal. Filippi’s is a cozy, homey establishment that allows all patrons from families, large parties, couples and even a lone college football player with headphones and a plate of spaghetti, to feel at ease.

Filippi’s was opened in 1950 by Vincent DePhilippis and Madeleine Stefani, who emigrated from Italy and France in 1922. By 1925, they were married and by 1950, they had left Philadelphia for San Diego.

Filippi’s Cash and Carry opened in 1950 on India Street. Today, it’s still owned and operated by surviving family members of the original owners. For more than sixty years, Filippi’s has served its community as a family restaurant.

There are many Filippi’s locations throughout San Diego County (there’s even one in Riverside county and Napa Valley), but the Little Italy location is the one that started it all, and thus, is my favorite.

Filippi’s has an extensive menu of pastas, lasagna, salads, sandwiches and raviolis, but I always gravitate toward the pizza when I’m here. Filippi’s has the best, cheesiest, gooiest pizza. It’s the type of pizza that I crave, that I tell my friends about like I’m some kind of relationship with this pizza.

I typically order a pepperoni pizza and a small antipasto salad. Filippi’s portions are quite large. For two people, there’s typically a substantial amount of leftovers of both pizza and salad. A pepperoni pizza is $14.55 and a small antipasto salad is $8.95, making the prices very reasonable for the amount of food served.

The antipasto salad sits on a dinner plate, piled high with pepperoncinis, olives, bologna, pepperoni, blocks of parmesan cheese, chickpeas, kidney beans and a bed of greens and tossed with Italian dressing. It sounds like a strange combination of foods, but the antipasto salad is hearty and satisfying in an unexpected way.

A meal at Filippi’s means indulging in a slice of San Diego’s Italian roots. It’s a staple to the community and certainly a staple after a long day exploring downtown or the beach.