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SAN DIEGO — The idea of “al fresco” dining has been discussed in communities across San Diego County as a way to allow restaurants to serve more people while still allowing plenty of spacing between tables.

On Saturday, Little Italy will be the first San Diego neighborhood to put the outdoor dining plan into acton, with about 20 restaurants participating.

It’s a new dining experience during the pandemic but for some, especially in the Little Italy neighborhood, it’s not such an unfamiliar concept.

“It’s very Italian because that’s what we do and what Italy is about. Stay outside in the piazza or in the streets,” said Valentina Nistra, who owns Monello and Bencotto Italian Kitchen.

Starting Saturday from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., the heart of Little Italy will transform to allow for more open air dining. India Street between Ash and Grape streets will be closed to cars, as well as several smaller side streets, lending more space for tables and people walking in the area.

“It’s like starting an opening a restaurant from scratch. It was like the first day of first grade,” said Nistra.

Everything has changed for restaurants, but local owners like Nistra are so thankful to welcome visitors back in whatever way they can.

Reservations aren’t mandatory but are encouraged. Social distancing and masks are still being recommended, and don’t forget to leave extra time to find parking.

Once guests arrive, restaurants owners are hoping people will feel at least a small sense of normal.

“They just have to relax for a few hours and not forget what’s going on, but at least just give it a break,” said Nistra.

This weekend is a trial run but if all goes well, the Little Italy Association says dining al fresco on Saturdays will continue.