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Thursday, Mar 30, 2023

The Wave of Change Reaches Anthony’s

The Port of San Diego is reviewing plans by the operators of Anthony’s Fish Grotto that call for $4 million in renovations, including a modern makeover of its fisherman’s wharf-themed exterior and interior.

With a history dating back to 1946, the iconic restaurant at 1360 N. Harbor Drive is joining the steady wave of changes transforming downtown San Diego’s waterfront.

It is also updating its menu and plans to add a new upscale dining venue, to be called 1360 Harbor, to its existing event space adjacent to Anthony’s.

The eatery has retained its customer traffic base while it made a series of more incremental remodelings over the years, said Chief Operating Officer Craig Ghio, part of a third generation now overseeing the family-run business.

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This next renovation is intended to modernize the eatery to better match other elements of a popular tourist neighborhood that have changed in the past few years.

“We wanted to design it in a way that was more congruent with what’s been built in that area recently,” Ghio said. “It’s more in line with the style you see at the cruise ship terminal and with the convention center.”

The port district in 2010 completed the $28 million cruise ship terminal and public events center, located on Broadway Pier near Anthony’s. The stretch of the North Embarcadero that includes the restaurant is in the midst of a $28 million first phase of renovations by the port district, aimed at creating new walkable public gathering spaces and set for completion later this year.

The downtown dining scene has been changing rapidly in recent months, with the opening of the nearby Headquarters at Seaport District, which includes several local and national restaurants in a historic former police building.

The port district is also working with that project’s developer, Terramar Retail Centers of Carlsbad, on long-term plans for renovating the next-door Seaport Village, which could bring even more new restaurants to the waterfront.

Growing With the Neighborhood

Anthony’s Fish Grotto, among the region’s oldest family-run establishments, has a history that predates the popular attractions that now surround it on San Diego Bay, including the USS Midway Museum and the Maritime Museum of San Diego.

Opened in July 1946 by Catherine “Mama” Ghio — with her sons Tod and Anthony, and son-in-law Roy Weber — the restaurant originally occupied the downtown space that now houses the carousel at Seaport Village. It moved to its current Harbor Drive location in 1966.

“There was nothing there but fishing docks and tuna boats before we opened,” said Craig Ghio, nephew of the restaurant’s namesake co-founder Anthony Ghio.

The privately held company over the years added a second Anthony’s, which opened on a private lake in La Mesa in 1961, and it expanded its flagship San Diego restaurant with an on-site events center, called Anthony’s Star of the Sea.

Craig Ghio now leads the restaurant company with his cousins, Beverly Mascari and CEO Rick Ghio. The company maintained steady sales and foot traffic before and after the latest recession, posting sales of more than $10 million last year while employing 225, the COO said.

Taking Event Space for Restaurant

Anthony’s is looking to complete project reviews and lease renewal discussions with the port district later this year. Construction could start in early 2015 and would take six months to complete, Ghio said.

The makeover, designed by local architect David Robinson, will give diners at Anthony’s a wider view of the bay, operators said. During the renovation, much of the restaurant’s business will take place in the events area.

Plans call for a portion of the events space to be converted into 1360 Harbor, which would feature artisanal seafood small plates, boutique wines and local craft beers. Anthony’s recently hired chef Jay Payne, former executive chef of Café Japengo in La Jolla, to oversee an overall updating of the restaurant’s menu as it looks to retain its appeal to locals as well as out-of-town visitors.

“It’s going to be more upscale, but it’s still going to be very much a casual dining restaurant,” Ghio said.

One of Multiple Renovations

The planned renovation of Anthony’s comes as several stalwart restaurants in and near downtown have been undergoing big makeovers.

Last year, operators of Tom Ham’s Lighthouse completed a $3.5 million renovation of the Harbor Island seafood mainstay.

In the Gaslamp Quarter, operators recently announced that the restaurant formerly known as Jimmy Love’s will open in the spring as Florent Restaurant & Lounge, with a name derived from the historical architecture of the “Old City Hall” building where it is housed. The remodeling and repositioning is being overseen by a team of new investors, including celebrity chef Richard Sweeney and designer Michael Soriano.

Also in the Gaslamp, operators of Lou & Mickey’s plan an early April unveiling of a “complete remodel” reconfiguring the restaurant with a new indoor-outdoor format to open it to adjacent streets and offer direct views of its bar from Fifth Avenue.


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