Little Italy’s new Nolita Hall aims to be World Cup central


For those with a passion for FIFA World Cup soccer, a new European-style beer hall in Little Italy hopes to become their neighborhood hangout this summer.

Nolita Hall — so named for its location in North Little Italy at 2305 India St. — will kick off the season by opening its doors at 7:45 a.m. Thursday for the kickoff game between Russia and Saudi Arabia.

The 6,000-square-foot glass-walled venue, which opened May 1, specializes in serving local craft beers and wood-fired pizzas in a communal setting with table and floor games, X-box FIFA soccer tournaments and sports-viewing on two 165-inch high-definition projector screens.

Nolita Hall is the first project of Black Swan Hospitality, a design-forward restaurant company co-founded by president Douglas Hamm, operations manager Tony Viveros and investment partner Behram Baxter.

Hamm said the goal of Black Swan — which is now at work on its second project, the $6.5 million Cedar Park restaurant/bar project eight blocks south — is to create unexpectedly designed projects “that are beautiful and treat people well.”

Hamm, 34, came into the hospitality business by way of being a real estate developer. He arrived in the region from Minnesota to study finance and philosophy at the University of San Diego and never returned to the Midwest.

Hamm’s company, Creative House, has invested in and redesigned numerous local office, hotel, restaurant and commercial properties.

The Nolita Hall space started out as just another project Hamm and his partners planned to revamp and lease, but along the way, they decided to open a business there themselves.

Designed by Tecture, Nolita Hall was built on the northeast corner of India and Juniper streets where there was once a nondescript strip of old shops. They gutted the building, tore out the walls and discovered old wood ceiling beams they kept exposed for an added industrial chic look.

Its design aesthetic is that of the popular beer halls in Germany, with the long communal tables and high ceilings. There’s also a large bar area managed by Brian Prugalidad with 22 mostly local beers and two wines on tap and a selection of 13 craft cocktails.

Nolita Hall is under the flight path for aircraft landing at nearby Lindbergh Field. But rather than fight the jet engine noise, they’ve embraced it with slide-up garage door walls and a 10-by-60-foot skylight through which customers can watch approaching planes. There’s even a custom-made train station-style split-flap display sign that’s programmed to roll up the flight information for each incoming plane.

The menu is overseen by Black Swan culinary director Nathan Coulon, whose family has deep roots in San Diego’s dining scene. Executive chef Jordan Herigstad is gradually expanding the menu which is “Italian-inspired American,” with wood-fired pizzas baked in an imported Italian brick oven, charcuterie boards, entree salads and a light brunch menu being rolled out in time for World Cup season.

Specialties include the $16 Zest of Amalfi pizza, with organic tomato sauce, broccolini, Calabrian chili, calabrese, mozzarella, lemon zest and Reggiano cheese; the $14 Y Tu Brute salad, with romaine and kale leaves, oven-roasted tomato and fennel, Parmesan bread crumbs, white anchovy and Caesar dressing; and roasted snap peas and baby heirloom carrots tossed in pistachio mint pesto.

Nolita Hall seats 200 with a full capacity of 300, which is what Hamm hopes to see after World Cup matches kick off Thursday. On match days, the doors will open at 7:45 a.m. for games that will be live-streamed at 8 and 11 a.m. Taped games will be re-broadcast in the afternoon and evening hours. AJ Manente is the general manager and David Gonzalez is assistant manager of Nolita Hall.

Hamm, a Real Madrid soccer fan himself, lives just a couple blocks away from Nolita Hall. He said he’s been gratified by how well the business has quickly established a neighborhood following.

“I really like sports, but there’s an unusual lack of quality venues in Little Italy to watch games,” he said. “This isn’t a place with 100 TVs in your face. We only have five, but you can get a great view of the games if you want one or you can just choose to enjoy the beauty of the building and the community of friends around you.”

Nolita Hall

Regular hours: 11:30 a.m.-midnight weekdays; 11 a.m. to midnight weekends. On FIFA World Cup game days, doors open at 7:45 a.m.

Where: 2305 India St., Little Italy

Phone: (619) 255-8000

Online: Twitter: @pamkragen