If you’re at all familiar with North Beach, you’ll probably understand why it’s my favorite place in SF. It’s an incredible neighborhood with a rich Italian heritage (and excellent coffee and food). But what makes North Beach truly unique is the energy. If you’re in search of a fun afternoon or evening, here are some things you need to check out in the North Beach area.
Featuring live music and authentic Italian coffee and pastries, Caffé Trieste’s slogan is “Coffee with Rhythm.” It’s been a destination spot for tourists and celebrities alike since it first opened in 1956. Founded by Papa Gianni Giotta, known as “The Espresso Pioneer of the West Coast,” this coffee shop is home to the longest running musical show in the city. On certain Saturdays, you can still experience their afternoon concerts! Their coffee and biscotti is incredible, and you can’t beat the eclectic atmosphere. And fun fact – Francis Ford Coppola wrote a good deal of the screenplay for The Godfather here. So whether you’re in search of some creative inspiration or just a really great cup of coffee, I definitely recommend stopping by! Be warned – it’s usually crowded. Since table-acquiring is one of my odd talents (the secret: make eye contact with both the people at your targeted table and any competition who happen to be lurking nearby, and then HUSTLE the second your table frees up), I’m usually able to snag a spot. But if you’re more socially acceptable than I am, you may need to get your coffee to go.
One of the key factors that makes SF so unique is its cultural diversity. And one of the things I love about North Beach is that immediately next door is one of my other favorite parts of SF – Chinatown! I think it’s fascinating that you can experience both Italian and Chinese culture in such close proximity. And Chinatown is always a great place to walk around and souvenir shop, but it’s even more fun when you’re accompanied by a Gen-X dad who aspires to be a millennial. North Beach and Chinatown are both great places to explore, with lots of fun murals, shops, and street musicians. Some of the restaurants in North Beach, like Calzone’s, even have outdoor tables facing the street – every people watcher’s dream!
Italian food is my favorite cuisine, but even it doesn’t rank quite so high for you, I’d recommend checking out the restaurants in North Beach, because they are phenomenal. My family’s favorite restaurant is Trattoria Pinnochio. It’s located at the heart of North Beach on Columbus Avenue and features incredible homemade pasta and some of the nicest staff you’ll ever meet. Seriously – who doesn’t love Italian people? Some nights, if you’re lucky, you might even get a chance to meet the restaurant’s opera-singing owner. It’s quite an experience!
Herb Caen famously said, “One day if I do go to heaven…I’ll look around and say, ‘It ain’t bad, but it ain’t San Francisco.” While I disagree theologically with that sentiment, it does speak to the true uniqueness of this city that will always give it a special place in my heart.
What’s your favorite part of San Francisco?!