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Friday, March 30, 2012


FUN ON A BUDGET—Ms. Bloggette, my significant other, created a fun two-day vacation that had all the earmarks of a Euro-style visit without breaking the bank and/or having to fuss with a limited parking neighborhood. Ever sharp-eyed for a deal, months ago she spotted a two-day Internet coupon deal at a hotel in the heart of San Diego’s Little Italy (less than five miles from Blog Central), plus we used a discount offer to rent a Smart Car to take us there and back. She selected a Euro style hotel to go with Little Italy’s very Mediterranean village feel.


How we got there: We signed up for CarGo, a new venture that offers temporary rentals of tiny Smart Cars. By signing up as charter members we received a free half-hour rental as part of the $35 membership. Round trip from our North Park Neighborhood to Little Italy is four miles or about 11 minutes in normal traffic. What’s great about CarGo is we left it right on the street next to our hotel and on the way home we located one five blocks away. It added to the fun of doing something different and we avoided a $22 per night hotel parking charge and didn’t have to feed pesky parking meters. Cost. With the coupon our round trip cost us $2.15.

Where we stayed: Porto Vista Hotel 1835 Columbia Street ( is on west facing hill in Little Italy, the hub of food, fests and Italian-American flavored friendliness. This is no boutique. Being two miles from Lindbergh International and in the heart of Little Italy, this 190-room operation is more efficient than cozy.

The suites on the west side of the hotel offer an amazing view of Little Italy and sunsets over San Diego Harbor. Our Harbor Suite ($80 upgrade from our coupon rate) was plenty large for two with a king-sized bed, marble appointed bath with tub and shower, wet bar and two verandas, two huge TVs and I felt like I was in a little sister to a favored HUSA hotel chain operation in Madrid. Closets are modern armoires.

The weatherman cooperated with two beautiful days with late March sunsets that we’ve grown to expect in San Diego.

Our first evening at Porto Vista, we dined at its Glass Door Restaurant ( and sat at the popular west facing terrace bar on the fourth floor terrace. We arrived at Happy Hour, which began at 4 pm and we stayed through early evening. Most of the time we were chatting with the restaurant’s genial GM Christian Cardnuto, formerly with Spago in Las Vegas. Highlights of the meal were the Calamari appetizer, $11; The Raw, a salad of uncooked daikon, beets, Asian pear, pickled red onion, frisee, pomegranate and red pepper-melon dressing, $10. Entrees: 1. Orange-Mojito Salmon in swiss chard, purple cabbage, blood orange, heirloom tomato, citrus soy mint sauce and garlic chips, $24. 2. Sea Bass in prosecco-beet sauce, tobiko, broccoli rabe, black cherry gremolata and king oyster mushroom, $30. Portions were medium sized.
GM Cardnuto has worked hard to give the restaurant a rebirth from its former management. He’s created in making it bright, stylish, and fun. He’s managed to blend a fine restaurant with a popular bar.

Back over on the hotel side, one possible deal breaker was the noise level coming from the restaurant foot traffic one floor above our suite. If this hotel was in Barcelona and at this rate and given the view, I would endure the constant restaurant hours foot traffic. Unfortunately, that’s not going to please anyone sensitive to noise. But, because we were out exploring the village most of the time, our time in room was limited. As any serious traveler understands: make the most of it. We always travel with ear plugs for the unexpected.

Staff at the Porto Vista was attentive, sharply dressed, good looking and capable but they were overwhelmed at check out time, but with a late check out we took an early morning stroll along Little Italy’s restaurant row and found the five block long (weekend only) Farmer’s Market along Date Street entertaining. When we returned after noon the check out line had disappeared.

The tab: Hotel Suite (Harbor Suite) $119 per night on our coupon with an $80 per night upgrade to the best two-room suite in the house. Extras included two free drinks at the popular Glass Door Bar and late checkout. Stay: Thurs. and Fri. nights.

Bottom line: We had a great time and recommend Porto Vista for being exactly what it is: Modern, non-chain, affordable, stylish, convenient and a fun place to headquarter for your stay in San Diego. But, I would forgo any rooms directly under the restaurant.


Images by author or Internet. Top to lower: Porto Vista Hotel, San Diego; Glass Door Restaurant; Sea Bass dinner and Raw Salad.

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