monello serves authentic italian street food.Visit with us for a comforting weekly lunch, a casual dinner, or meet up after
work for our signature Milanese Aperitivo. On Saturdays + Sundays, enjoy our savory Farmer's Market Brunch, locally sourced from the neighborhood Little Italy Mercado; or traditional Italian breakfast, featuring housemade pastries.
Contact us daily at (619) 501-0030.
Monello, an endearing Italian term that translates
to "naughty little boy," is a passionate project from
the same family behind San Diego's "Best Italian Restaurant:" Bencotto Italian Kitchen.
Read more about Monello here.
explore monello in photos
Located in the "Q" building in the Little Italy neighborhood of downtown San Diego, the concept behind Monello is to celebrate the extraordinary lifestyle of Milan — the epicenter of Italian fashion, design and glamorous street food and aperitivo culture — and bring it to the states with a hint of rebellion.
Owners Valentina DiPietro, Guido Nistri and Executive Chef Fabrizio Cavallini created the concept with respect to Italian culinary traditions, yet were not limited by them. Monello is purely their own interpretation of the traditions and way of life. The restaurant is honest Italian yet modern, creative and engaging. It reflects the partners' immigration from Northern Italy to America and their experiences operating restaurants in Milan, New York and Southern California.
The menu is inspired by the upscale street food found in Milan. Fashionable Milanese enjoy simple dishes expertly prepared with the highest quality ingredients; these same dishes have been elevated with Italian gastronomic heritage to provide "street-chic" cuisine at Monello. This strong tradition of quality is reflected in the cooking style at Monello. The same Italian comfort foods such as polenta, grilled pizza and gelato, enjoyed on the streets and piazzas of Milan, can be enjoyed on U.S. soil.
One of Monello's most engaging offerings is the aperitivo experience. An aperitivo is meant to open the palate and give guests a chance to socialize, relax and nibble as dinner approaches – or simply savor as a light alternative to dinner. At Monello, guests are invited to enjoy aperitivo with expertly-crafted cocktails and complimentary “tastes from the cook" in a social gathering space designed to bring the community together.
At the heart of Monello's aperitivo is a secret 27-ingredient recipe for homemade vermouth that is nothing short of phenomenal - and completely different from the factory-produced vermouth most have come to recognize. Created by trend-setting mixologist Jennifer Queen after months of experimentation and feedback, Monello's vermouth can be sipped on the rocks with a twist of orange or served as the foundation for a selection of made-from-scratch aperitivo cocktails.
Designed by Dianne Harsch of Studio Emphasis, Monello's interior is inspired by a traditional Milanese eatery adorned with light-hearted scenes of Milano's architectural treasures and aperitivo culture. This timeless décor presents a simple Milanese-style design best described as “trattoria chic" and the Old World vibe of Milano—a medieval city with centuries of stories—has been married to modernity. In both contrast and tribute to older brother Bencotto, Monello's stamped concrete and stone surfaces are warmed with residential touches while white furnishings and accents set it apart from the sleek black furnishings of Bencotto.
Guido Nistri, General Manager & Co-Owner
After an uninspiring career in banking, Guido left Milan, Italy in 1998, determined to follow his passion for food, wine and hospitality. After relocating to San Diego, he launched his career in the restaurant business in September of the same year, becoming a partner in Caffé Bella Italia in Pacific Beach. In 2004, Guido returned to Italy with his wife Valentina to immerse himself in his native cuisine. He was hired as general manager of the upscale restaurant Osteria Artidoro, located in Milan's historic district. During this time, he also studied wine and became a Sommelier. In January 2007, after nearly a decade in the restaurant business, Guido was appointed as the project manager for the opening of Obiká Restaurant and Lounge Bar, a space adorning the top of the oldest and most celebrated department store in Milan “La Rinascente," situated in front of the Duomo cathedral. Later that year, longing to return to the United States, Guido joined Parmacotto, a prominent Italian Specialty Meat Company. As project manager, he opened Salumeria Rosi Parmacotto, an Italian bistro designed by Oscar winner Dante Ferretti, in the Upper West Side. San Diego's weather and casual lifestyle lured him back to the West Coast where he, Valentina and long-time friend and talented chef Fabrizio Cavallini opened Bencotto to critical acclaim. Now, he also oversees operations at Monello.
Fabrizio Cavallini, Executive Chef & Co-Founder
Fabrizio was born and raised in Emilia Romagna, a famous Italian region celebrated for its culinary excellence. His family has been in the restaurant business since 1960, and after spending his youth in his family's gourmet kitchen, Fabrizio was accepted to the Hospitality Institute in Modena. In 1993, he bought restaurant Europa 93, and developed a reputation for offering an outstanding variety of homemade pasta over the next thirteen years. In 2006, Guido hired Fabrizio as chef for Osteria Artidoro, where his expertise and talent earned rave reviews from American, Milanese and international clientele. In 2008, Fabrizio returned to Milan as executive chef of Beccofino, a high-volume gourmet restaurant in historic Milan. His beloved friends Guido and Valentina enticed him to move to the United States and the city of San Diego, where he has showcased his Italian heritage and cooking talents, most notably his handcrafted pastas and sauces. At Monello, Fabrizio further explores Italian food traditions with a modern interpretation.
Valentina Di Pietro
A native of Milan in northern Italy, Valentina grew up with a respect for quality in all experiences. Working hand-in-hand with her husband and co-founder of Bencotto and Monello, she brings a relationship-centered philosophy to her work. Guests of both restaurants know they will be cared for and the quality of their dining experience will be world class, thanks in part to Valentina's warm and inviting style and adoring attention to detail. Valentina got her start in the Italian restaurant world working with Guido at Caffé Bella Italia while she taught and pursued higher education at SDSU and UCSD. After the two were married, they decided to move back to Milan, where Valentina began a career in fashion public relations. She and Guido then moved to New York, where she spent time working in public relations for Dolce & Gabbana. During this time, Valentina and Guido began to develop the concept for Bencotto and brought it to life in San Diego in 2009 in the historic neighborhood of Little Italy. Bencotto quickly earned accolades and was recognized as San Diego's “best Italian restaurant." Inspired by its ongoing success, Valentina once again joined Guido to craft the concept for Monello, a space in which they could share their love of Milan's aperitivo culture with Southern Californians. She is extremely proud of her Milanese origins and sharing its glamorous culture through her restaurant concepts. She continues to serve as the public relations manager for both restaurants.
directions: We're located at 750 West Fir Street, Suite 102-B, in the heart of downtown San Diego's Little Italy, right
next door to Bencotto. Drop by during lunch, aperitivo, dinner or weekend Farmer's Brunch and celebrate a
genuine taste of Italy's street kitchens. Call for hours and to schedule reservations: 619-501-0030.
make a reservation. Grazie! We value your comments and questions!
For other great tastes of Italy, be sure to visit Bencotto.