Casa de Pico takes the honors of ‘Best Restaurant in 2021’

What started out in 1971 as a humble Mexican restaurant with less than 20 tables has blossomed into one of San Diego County’s most colorful and spacious dining destinations.

Casa de Pico recently earned the title of “Best Restaurant in 2021” by the East County Chamber of Commerce. Located originally in Old Town’s Bazaar del Mundo in San Diego, the spirited Mexican restaurant moved to Grossmont Center in 2005 after owner Diane Powers lost her lease at the bazaar.

That same year, she moved her other Old Town restaurant, Casa de Bandini, to Carlsbad while keeping in place nearby Casa Guadalajara.

Casa de Pico boasts one of the largest outdoor patios in La Mesa for eating and drinking. It seats 115 guests. Inside, fiesta-style décor flows attractively throughout various dining areas, including a bright, windowed section resembling a solarium. The property in total has a 500-seat capacity.

The restaurant received its honor last month at Sycuan Casino Resort during the East County Chamber’s annual awards gala. The event also celebrated the organization’s 110th anniversary and the swearing in of five new board members.

The chamber has 550 business members. For the awards process, each member is allowed to nominate another business (or their own) across 14 categories. The nominees are then tallied and sent to the membership, allowing each member to cast a one-time vote within each category.

The “Best Restaurant (or catering)” option is the only category pertaining to the food industry.

It is the first time Casa de Pico won this honor,” noted Stephanie Deppensmith, the chamber’s events, marketing and program coordinator. “They have been an incredibly valued member to the chamber. They have great food and support the East County business community.”

The famous Southwest stir fry known as fajitias are a top draw at Casa de Pico. The sizzling dish was added to the menu in the early 1990s with the help of longtime employee Lino Rodarte, who had explored various recipes for fajitas in kitchens throughout Texas during a cross-country drive.

According to Powers, the enchilada Suizas and the carne asada and shrimp combo plate are the restaurant’s other big sellers.

Although she added, “We find that everyone has their favorite items, and we are continually testing our food to make sure we’re always offering the best, and that all our dishes are made with the freshest, in-season ingredients.”

Past winners of “Best Restaurant” within the chamber have included Chick-fil-A in Santee (for 2020) and Brigantine Seafood Restaurant in La Mesa (for 2019).

Powers is moved by the recognition, saying “We are very appreciative to have won this award. I want to thank the members of the East County Chamber of Commerce and our loyal local following. La Mesa residents have always been very supportive which motivates us to work hard and provide an excellent, warm experience.”

Casa de Pico is located at 5500 Grossmont Center Drive. For more information call 619-463-3267, or visit

Frank Sabatini Jr. can be reached at [email protected].

(Photo courtesy J. Walcher Communications)