By Christopher Gomez
For those weekend warriors who love spending their Saturdays strolling through local farmers’ markets, the Little Italy’s Mercato has been attracting locals for over 12 years. The largest farmers’ market in San Diego, the Little Italy Mercato, has become a staple in the city, providing the freshest goods and produce from local farms and vendors.
Opened in June 2008, it didn’t take much time for both residents and visitors to take a liking to Little Italy’s Mercato. It became a hot spot for local chefs to shop at for fresh ingredients. Many people began turning away from their local grocery stores and stocking up on the produce sold every Saturday. It became the perfect place for people to enjoy their breakfast and lunch while listening to music and taking in the peaceful ambience of Little Italy. By the end of the 2008, the Mercato became the heart of the city.
Following a brief hiatus in March 2020 due to COVID-19, the Little Italy Mercato returned in the beginning of April with a brand-new layout following strict San Diego County requirements, creating an environment where visitors can safely and efficiently shop for fresh groceries in a well-spaced, open-air shopping area, every Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Since its reopening, the market has begun slowly and safely expanding from just two blocks to now four blocks providing plenty of space between the farm stands.
Located on W. Date Street, between Kettner Blvd and Union Street, visitors can shop from over 20 vendors offering a wide variety of goods including vegetables, fruits, meats, and fish, along with market favorites such as yogurts, coffee beans, and baked goods. Shoppers can also enjoy a section of locally crafted soaps, face masks, cards, and art.
In order to maintain social distancing protocols, the Little Italy Mercato has been restricting the number of people allowed inside at one time and ask shoppers to wear face masks and keep a minimum of six feet between them and the vendor tents. A new ‘point to purchase’ rule has also been put into effect in which shoppers are asked to not touch any produce prior to purchase and instead to simply point at which item they would like to examine and have the vendor place it on the table for them to observe, minimizing the amount of contact y before the purchase.
To minimize crowds, visitors are being asked to do their shopping alone or bring no more than one other person for assistance. Once shoppers have obtained all their desired goods, they are being asked to please exit the market in order to allow others to enter. All staff members, vendors, and shoppers are expected to wear face masks while shopping inside Mercato and to refrain from eating or drinking inside the market. All ready-to-eat meals such as the Indian samosas and sushi burritos are still available for purchase to-go and can be enjoyed at home or a favorite open-air park or space.
— For the latest updates on the Little Italy Mercato, please visit us at www.LittleItalySD.com or follow us on Instagram @LittleItalySD, Twitter @LittleItalySD and Facebook @LittleItalySD. Christopher Gomez has been Little Italy’s district manager since 2000. Reach him at email@example.com.