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First Look: El Sueño


The massive opening in San Diego this week is El Sueño in Old Town. It’s the new thing from the trio behind Don Pietros(Pietro Busalacchi, his dad Salvatore, and Gustavo Rios). A damn lovely modern Mexican spot, part hidden side-alley restaurant in Mexico City, part “the jungle took it back.” It’s going into the big space that was home to iconic hangout La Piñata for decades.

“A lot of people have fond memories of this place so I really hope that we can live up to that legacy,” says Pietro. Restaurants run in his family’s genes. Uncle Joe Busalacchi was one of the chefs whose restaurants helped revitalize Little Italy. Now the next generation, having learned a few things, are creating ideas of their own.

The tree-lined patio is the heart of it all. They’re focusing on high-quality tequilas and creative cocktails (Pietro is a really, really talented bar man) like the “Bad Bunny” spicy carrot margarita. There’s also a members-only speakeasy upstairs through a secret entrance for those who have “been along for the ride” in their restaurant journey.

For food: crab empanadas, elotes, gorditas, rajas, lobster queso fundido, tacos of all kinds (queso birria, lobster, al pastor), California burritos, and plates like grilled whole fish, a molcajete with lobster tail and flank steak, duck carnitas, grilled whole fresh-catch fish.

El Sueno’s soft opening takes place June 9, and officially opens to the public June 13. If you go right away, be kind. Soft openings are meant to work out the kinks.

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