San Diego’s vibrant Little Italy neighborhood is a constantly evolving place that in recent years has seen an endless stream of exciting new restaurant openings, neighborhood improvement projects and the launch of trendy retail and residential spaces.
What started as a quaint fishing village back in the late 1800s is quaint no more. The neighborhood has grown to be the largest Little Italy in the country.
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The latest new name in the thriving neighborhood is Carte Hotel. The 246-room property, a Curio Collection by Hilton, development, is located in a stylish, airy and sunlight-filled 16-story building on the corner of W. Ash and State streets.
On a recent Friday, the hotel was busy putting the finishing touches on everything from guest rooms to its two-floor athletic club, in preparation for a grand opening that’s slated for later this week.
A flurry of engineers, construction workers, and support staff could be seen at work on every floor testing elevators, arranging furniture and placing decorative features.
The entire property is an ode to its Little Italy address and its broader San Diego backdrop. To that end, the hotel’s color palette includes various soothing shades of blue, reflective of the coastal location of its host city. (The Embarcadero waterfront is just a few blocks away and many of the rooms and outdoor spaces throughout the property provide bay views.)
“Everything has been designed to give you an accent of Little Italy but also a tie in to the local San Diego beach communities as well,” MarQuies Willis, Carte’s director of sales and marketing explained during a property walk-through.
Beyond color choices, the beach theme is continued with broad boardwalk-style floorboards in the hotel’s public spaces and fishing net art elements on the walls. Even the building’s exterior structure was created to be reflective of San Diego, designed to give guests an idea of what the water looks like at nighttime.
“Everything was uniquely thought out by the owner to have a true San Diego feel,” said Willis, as he pointed to leaves embedded in the floor of an outdoor patio space that were hand-picked from nearby Balboa Park and then encased and included in the floor tiles.
“All of these things were the owner’s idea,” continued Willis. “He wants you to be activated by some sort of special element or story every time you walk around the property.”
In yet another nod to its Little Italy environs, all of the private dining and meeting spaces throughout the hotel will have an Italian name, added Willis.
The guestrooms at Carte continue the property’s airy, light-filled theme thanks to their floor to ceiling windows offering views of Little Italy or downtown San Diego from various vantage points. Décor also emphasizes the prominent blue color scheme, with many rooms featuring rich, dark blue velvet accent chairs.
Additional guest room highlights include fiber internet and 55-inch, 4K TVs with smartphone streaming capabilities.
It’s also worth noting that Carte’s creators have not overlooked the fact that the new property is located in one of San Diego’s most popular and competitive dining neighborhoods, (Little Italy is home to several celebrity-led restaurants.)
The hotel will feature three food and beverage venues. Most noteworthy among them is Watercolors, located in the stylish and expansive hotel lobby space. Watercolors will be a full-service restaurant offering sustainable, local seafood and serving a sea-to-table menu for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Also, on the ground floor is Carte’s full-service wine bar and specialty spirit tasting room, Fonte di Vino, which will showcase a spirit-driven tour of the region. The menu will feature local wineries and distilleries from Southern California and Mexico, as well as some offerings from Italy. The wine bar also offers outdoor patio seating, which has proved wildly popular at venues throughout Little Italy and downtown San Diego to maximize people-watching opportunities.
The hotel rooftop meanwhile features Above Ash Social, the type of sweeping and inviting open space that can also be found at numerous downtown venues in a sun-drenched city like San Diego where outdoor parties are the norm throughout much of the year. Carte’s rooftop overlooks the spectacular city skyline as well as the bay. There’s also numerous fire pits and a giant LED TV wall on the rooftop ideal for viewing sports events or even outdoor movies.
Additional noteworthy amenities at Carté include a heated saltwater pool surrounded by cabana seating (and still more San Diego views.)
Just around the corner from the pool is the property’s 28,000 square foot Fit Athletic Club Little Italy, which will offer exclusive gym access to its members and hotel guests, including access to classes, full-service locker rooms, and specialty equipment.
The hotel’s name, by the way, means passport and as Willis explained, the property ultimately aims to be just that – a passport for its guests to local cuisine, experiences, dining, nightlife and more.
“A lot of what you’ll see in the hotel actually gives you an opportunity to have an experience, whether it’s an experience at a wine bar, or going up to the gym, hanging out in the lobby bar or having a sunset toast on the roof,” said Willis.
Carte’s creators have built their stylish new property around three core offerings – elevated amenities, sophisticated design, and exceptional culinary venues and experiences.
And once it opens its doors, Little Italy’s newest hotel is likely to give the other longstanding, trendy, boutique property in the neighborhood, Hotel Republic (the former W Hotel), a serious run for its money.