4207 Park Boulevard
The unassuming location, simple exterior and plain name mask how special the concept is once you walk inside. Peter Lutz found his passion inside a brick oven built in Naples, and he promptly quit his longtime banking career to re-create the best pizza here in San Diego. He takes the finest ingredients, many sourced directly from Italy, and slides them inside his 900-degree wood-burning oven, named Bruno. This is not New York style, not Chicago style; this is Neopolitan style. Think crusted edges and gooey, cheesy center. Lutz has been working the oven every time I’ve dined there. All night long, he slides pizzas in and takes pizzas out, each a work of art. How many other pizzas in town are actually made by the founder of the establishment? You can’t delegate passion, but you can taste it in every pie that comes from Bruno.
Eclipse Chocolat Café
2121 El Cajon Boulevard
After shopping and dining along Park, head east a few blocks on El Cajon Boulevard to round out your night with a sampling of handmade truffles or a cup of drinkable chocolate. After my first visit, I was hooked on the chocolate-infused coffee and came back for a sampling of the truffles, which were out of this world. I’ve worked my way through most of the menu now and have yet to be disappointed. I strongly recommend anything that includes the chile burnt caramel flavor. It starts off smooth and sweet before the chile spice takes your taste buds by surprise. Chocoholics, beware: You’ll need a 12-step program to kick this place.
3816 Park Boulevard
Just south of University on Park, you’ll find three of the coolest furniture stores in San Diego. The owner of Mid Century has been doing his thing here since 1987. Design One moved in two doors down three years ago. The new kid on the block is Atomic Bazaar, across the street in the old Egyptian Theatre, built in 1925. Furniture this funky calls for a unique setting, and this could be the weirdest setup in town. Many of the colorful ’60s and ’70s pieces are strewn about on the sidewalk leading up to the shop; the top selections are upstairs in the narrow, windowless former projection room of the Fox Egyptian Theatre. Owner Brandon Vega is a recent Hollywood transplant whose grandfather owned the Western Bazaar antique swap meet in Hollywood during the ’70s and ’80s. Upon arriving in San Diego, Vega set out to fill a niche for affordable vintage furnishings. Though not as pristine as Design One’s selection across the street, most items in Atomic Bazaar are priced below $600.