Anthony’s Fish Grotto: The Good, The Bad, and The Pandemic

SAN DIEGO—One of Downtown San Diego’s iconic restaurants had shut down in 2017, making way for the shinier, glossier Portside Pier (which just opened a few weeks ago, in the midst of a global pandemic). Anthony’s Fish Grotto certainly made its presence felt during the 60-some years it existed on the San Diego Bay waterfront. The restaurant, of course, still exists, with a location in the San Diego inland suburb of La Mesa.

There was some pushback – naturally – when the Port of San Diego announced it was going forward with plans to bring Portside Pier online – at the expense of Anthony’s Fish Grotto’s location next to Star of India. But at least there was the La Mesa location.

The arrival of Covid-19 earlier this year, however, threatened Anthony’s Fish Grotto’s La Mesa existence. The restaurant’s owners contemplated a permanent shutdown the restaurant in May.

A groundswell of support gave the restaurant a lifeline, and Anthony’s Fish Grotto has managed to keep afloat despite the pandemic.

“While closing permanently was certainly a major financial consideration, it wasn’t final, but most other options were not looking good,” the restaurant’s ownership said in a May 9 Facebook post. “Since the moment of our announcement our phones have rang off the hook.”

The owners held a beer, liquor and wine clearance sale May 6-9, and customers had cleared out the inventory by May 8.

“You all came and cleared us out,” Anthony’s Fish Grotto’s owners said in the May 9 Facebook post. “This showing of love has convinced Beverly and me to make all possible sacrifices and stay open for you.”

The restaurant is still open in La Mesa and offers outdoor dining.

Antony’s Fish Grotto traces its roots to 1946, when Catherine “Mama” Ghio, the wife of a fisherman, spearheaded the launch of the restaurant and used her “secret recipes” as the foundation of its menu.

The downtown waterfront location opened in 1960, and remained there through 2016, when the restaurant’s lease with the restaurant ended.

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