Downtown's Bottega Americano closes, owners file for bankruptcy

Bottega Americano, a high-profile downtown eatery known for its groundbreaking food hall concept, has closed.

  • Owners say the East Village location at Park Boulevard and Island Avenue which didn’t attract much foot traffic, was partly to blame for the closure.
  • The restaurant, which opened in 2014 and featured culinary stations, a pizza bar and a grab and go marketplace, cost $3 million to develop.
  • The owners filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy this week.

Bottega Americano, a first of its kind food hall concept for San Diego when it opened nearly four years ago in downtown’s East Village, closed this week, and its owners have filed for bankruptcy.

An ambitious $3 million project housed in an 8,000-square-foot space, the contemporary Italian eatery was part sit-down restaurant, part grab-and-go, part gourmet marketplace with open culinary stations featuring housemade pastas, pizzas, and salumi.

But the restaurant’s vision as a go-to eatery for an up and coming neighborhood never materialized. Although located just north of the Central Library at the corner of Island Avenue and Park Boulevard on the first floor of the Thomas Jefferson School of Law building, foot traffic was light and access and parking could be difficult, especially during home Padres games, the owners say.

“The main reason why we had to close had to do with the location and lack of traffic,” said Giuseppe Ciuffa, one of the partners. “We invested a lot of time and money into the concept, which worked very well but unfortunately the location and neighborhood never took off, so it never became what it was supposed to be. Think about Little Italy, everyone walks around and East Village was supposed to be like that.”

East Village has seen a lot of redevelopment over the last decade, and in just the last two months, two highrise housing developments opened, but what the neighborhood is lacking right now are job-generating businesses, said developer Pete Garcia, who with business partner David Malmuth conceived the 93-acre IDEA (innovation, design, education and the arts) district in East Village. IDEA1, a six-story, residential-office-retail project with 295 apartments, recently opened.

“My wife and I went almost every Friday to the restaurant, and we’d sit at the bar and have dinner and most of the time it was well attended but was really soft at lunch,” Garcia said. “East Village is really developing well but if they (the owners) expected that all of a sudden there would be an explosion of stuff, they probably got ahead of the market and over invested and didn't have enough oxygen to get to the other side.”

In its Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing this week, the partnership that owns Bottega Americano listed assets of $100,000 to $500,000 and liabilities from $1 million to $10 million.

Although Bottega Americano had to stay on top of the homeless who would congregate in the area from time to time, Ciuffa did not blame the restaurant closure on that. He also noted that there have been a number of other restaurant closures in the area over the last year or two.

It is too early to know what will take over the now vacant space, Ciuffa said.

“I guess we were just the wrong fit for the area,” he said.

San Diego restaurant broker Mike Spilky agrees. The density of East Village simply isn’t great enough to support a high number of restaurants and as new housing comes on line, those new projects also come with ground floor dining venues.

“That location is very neighborhoody,” Spilky said. “And if people from outside downtown are going out to eat, they’re going to go to places like Little Italy, North Park. That area where Bottega was just isn’t a restaurant neighborhood.”

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