Two Generations of Restaurateurs Build “The Dream” in Old Town

This spring, Old Town San Diego’s dining scene will take a thunderous leap forward with El Sueño by The Vibrant Group.

The exciting, two-story jungle-themed restaurant and cocktail lounge will boast an exquisite menu born of partner and vibe dining expert Pietro Busalacchi’s travels through Mexico from Tijuana to Chiapas — with special dishes reflecting friend and business partner Gustavo Rios’ mother’s toothsome Huasteca heritage cooking, each dish highlighted by well-sourced ingredients. 

More than just an eatery, El Sueño, literally Pietro’s dream restaurant, will be composed of multiple creatively designed dining and drinking areas and ever-evolving surprises to engage guests. Like its stunning Old Town Sicilian counterpart Trattoria Don Pietro, El Sueño will be service forward and entice guests to stay late, rather than turning and burning tables.

This is the second in the growing restaurant group, composed of Pietro and father Sal Busalacchi and longtime friend Gustavo Rios, that’s quickly becoming known for vibe dining. Both Trattoria Don Pietro and El Sueño reflect a level of vibe dining more commonly found in metropolitan cities in Europe. Pietro has put a new spin on his father’s more traditional take on restaurant ownership: the next generation of dining.

With a well-established, versatile team, guests can rely on high-quality all around. Sal opened his first restaurant in 1978: the first pizza shop in the San Diego Sports Arena and first area restaurant owned by a Busalacchi. Hollywood Pizza quickly became a favorite of the San Diego Clippers. He then found great success in helping establish multiple other Italian restaurants in Little Italy with his family. His son, Pietro, grew up in his nonna’s kitchen, learning her recipes, which are served at Trattoria Don Pietro, named for his late grandfather. 

Pietro also worked in Los Angeles for influential restaurateur Lisa Vanderpump’s Tom Tom Restaurant & Bar. A whiz in the kitchen and at creating atmosphere, he’s merging his skills in presentation and culinary to provide a full sensory experience at El Sueño. 

“It begins the moment guests step foot into the restaurant. Each time they return, we want them to be wowed — to say, “I haven’t seen that before,” said Pietro. “And we want them to feel like this is their place — always welcomed. Service is a priority. Food quality: another priority. Dining should be the full experience.”

Expected seating for El Sueño will be approximately 300, boasting a luxurious jade granite bar, a transportive outdoor patio, lush greenery and tucked away spaces for private dining. 

“I’m a firm believer that quality and experience can live together. We’re just as excited about the food and drink as we are about the entire atmosphere and the service. Wherever I travel, I’m looking for the full experience and I’m bringing the best of what I’ve found to Old Town.”

El Sueño had a soft opening June 9 and will be accepting reservations the week of June 12. The restaurant is located at 2836 Juan Street, where the old eatery, La Piñata, was housed from 1928-2018. 

About El Sueño 

El Sueño is a lavish restaurant designed to transport guests to a mysterious Mexican jungle setting, with multiple spaces to gather, dine and imbibe, including a sizable rooftop lounge for private and public gatherings. 

Following the success of Trattoria Don Pietro, highlighting real Sicilian food with all the vibes, owner Pietro Busalacchi is building his next dream restaurant to reflect his travels throughout Mexico. Both restaurants highlight what’s known as vibe dining: a harmonious blend of top-notch food, service and atmosphere. 

Sal Busalacchi and longtime friend Gustavo Rios have joined Pietro in his culinary exploits and in building this second-gen restaurant group in San Diego, Calif. Sal opened Italian restaurants and pizza houses back in the ‘70s and ‘80s and son, managing partner and third generation owner-operator Pietro Busalacchi brings a new generation of restaurants to the county, steeped in the lively dining culture of cosmopolitan cities around the world. Pietro was inspired by his work bartending for Lisa Vanderpump’s Tom Tom Restaurant & Bar in LA. The group insists guests have the full experience: high-quality ingredients and recipes and an atmosphere that brings them back again and again.


  • Tue-Thu: 4pm-10pm
  • Fri-Sun: 4pm-11pm

Address – 2836 Juan St, San Diego, CA 92110