Ah, San Francisco’s North Beach. It’s one of my favorite San Francisco neighborhoods – a vibrant neighborhood with a European feel. People come for the food and stay for the drinks and cool vibe.
Below we’ve detailed a few of our favorite must-visit Italian eateries and bars.
But first, coffee.
Before embarking on your tour of North Beach, make a stop at the very first espresso coffee house on the West Coast. Founded in 1956, “Papa Gianna” Giotta and his family are said to be the ones who single-handedly launched the espresso movement. To us, it’s the combination of old Italian heritage, Bohemian artists, and fantastic coffee that make it a Noth Beach favorite. Many others agree, as evident from the many photos of famous visitors plastered across the walls. Fun fact: Francis Ford Coppola wrote much of the Godfather from here.
On the corner of Filbert & Stockton Street, you’ll find the best focaccia in the city. This is the only thing they offer here – it’s that good. Founded in 1911, the bakery is still run by the same family, making it one of the oldest businesses in North Beach. Each morning, pans of pillowy olive oil-coated goodness emerge from the oven to supply the line of hungry visitors and restaurants around the city. A range of different focaccia flavors are on offer. While you can’t go wrong, the plain and the pizza focaccia are usually the most popular.
Warning: they often sell out in the afternoon!
Once you’re ready for lunch, head over to Molinari’s Deli, a longtime favorite. Opened in 1896, Molinari’s has served up gourmet Italian sandwiches for over 12 decades. Try the Luciano Special with prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, coppa, and sun-dried tomatoes on grilled focaccia. For your more typical Italian sub, you can’t go wrong with the Molinari Special Combo. The most popular on the menu, this one is jam-packed with the deli’s finest meats while managing the perfect bread-to-meat ratio with spicy pepperoncinis to bring some tang. While there, leave time to browse the Italian specialty items on offer, many of which you can’t find anywhere else in the city.
Tony’s Pizza Napoletana
Look no further than Tony’s for the best pizza in the neighborhood and maybe the entire city. The brainchild of the first American to win the World Champion Pizza Maker title in Naples, Tony’s serves up a whopping 12 styles of pizza, cooked at a specific seven different temperatures. The science of pizza here can be so specific that some pizzas have their own dedicated oven. While everything is good, the award-winning Margherita never fails if you get overwhelmed by the options.
Want to hear more about Tony’s Pizza? I can’t blame you. It’s the BEST.
After spending the day exploring San Francisco’s North Beach, it’s time to relax and take it all in from the neighborhood’s most famous bar. Vesuvio Cafe, established in 1948, has always attracted a creative crowd. During the height of the Beat Generation, this was the place to be, whether to write, mingle, do a poetry reading, or just revel into the wee hours of the night.
Order the Jack Kerouac, served just the way Jack liked it, with a mix of tequila, rum, orange, and cranberry juice. Another tasty choice is the Bohemian Coffee, with brandy, amaretto, and a twist of lemon. While this is technically a bar, it’s more of a public living room for patrons of the area. Hungry? Vesuvio doesn’t serve food, but they also don’t mind if you bring your own. So pick up something from nearby, get comfortable, and stay awhile.
The 102-year old Tosca is a San Francisco staple. It’s gone through a few ownership changes in the last few years, but remains is the dark cool vibe that has brought many celebrities to enjoy drinks at the bar. Have their Negroni- you won’t regret it. Unless you drink too many of them, of course.