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Market Scene: Little Italy Mercato, San Diego

Slideshow SLIDESHOW: Market Scene: Little Italy Mercato, San Diego

[Photographs: Erin Jackson]

On Saturday mornings, San Diego's Little Italy is transformed into a bustling outdoor market, with plenty of delicious eats for the taking. The Little Italy Mercato features over 100 vendors, selling everything from produce to ready to eat treats. Like the Hillcrest Farmers' Market, it's a great place to pick up essentials for the week ahead, or just stop by for a quick bite.

The Mercato features local fruits and vegetables, plus food vendors offering everything from samosas to rotisserie chicken. It's a balanced mix of farmers, independent artisans, and retail store owners who set up micro versions of their shops. This one-stop shop of eclectic goods is what makes the Mercato so unique.

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Case in point: Poppa's Fresh Fish. This vendor was offering something you don't see every day: sea urchins. This particular urchin was caught 80 feet below sea level in Point Loma. After being sawed in half, it's filled with mango, coconut milk, cucumber, fresno chilies and cilantro. The meat (so I'm told) is creamy and custardy, and tastes briny, not fishy.

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Baked goods are in abundance at the Little Italy Mercato, including these fresh-baked French pastries from Lisko Imports. Other options for treats include croissants, cookies, tarts, cakes by the slice, plus an excellent assortment of gluten-free sweets.

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Lisko Imports also had an excellent selection of fresh pastas, including red bell pepper pappardelle, chickpea fettuccine (wheat and egg-free), and spinach radiatore.

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There were so many options for food, but the Chop Soo-ey truck won out. The carnitas tacos (topped with cilantro, onions, radish and jalapeno) were well worth $5.

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At the Berkeley Pizza table, you can buy half-baked pies that can be finished off in your oven at home...but come early. By noon, they were almost completely sold out. Here, owner Danny Palacios shows off a heart-shaped pie (a special item for Valentine's Day).

In Season Right Now:

Asparagus
Brocolli
Cauliflower
Brussel Sprouts
Citrus Fruits
Berries
Root Vegetables
Apples
Avocados
Squash
Peas
Tomatoes
Cheese
Nuts
Fresh Herbs

About the author: Erin Jackson is a freelance food writer and photographer who is obsessed with discovering the best cheap and tasty eats in San Diego. She always saves room for dessert.

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