I love Italian pork sausage. Luckily I can get the best right here in North Beach.
The Chronicle tasted 48 house-made sausages from all over the Bay Area, everything from traditional Italian pork sausage to Boudin Blanc and Spicy Georgia Peach Bourbon chicken sausage. Even with such a wide spread of sausage styles North Beach had 2 winners!
Calabrese pork sausage from Little City at Stockton and Vallejo came in second for “specialty sausages.” The Calabrese has a kick from the crushed hot pepper. It’s delicious.
My other personal favorite from the Little City guys is the Sicilian sausage, a mild pork sausage with fennel. I’m amazed their Sicilian didn’t make the top 5 in the mild sausage category. It’s a perfect blend of pork shoulder, salt, pepper and fennel seeds.
They sell a lot of sausage at Little City. If you get lucky you might catch fresh sausage being made on the counter at the back of the shop. You’ll want to see how this sausage is made. It’s an art.
The mild pork sausage with fennel from Molinari on Columbus got a favorable mention too.
I thought the Central Subway project currently tearing up the streets around Union Square would terminate at the Chinatown station, about 6 blocks south of North Beach at Clay and Stockton. I was pleased that North Beach would be spared from the subway construction nightmare that will last for years. I was wrong.
When I got back from New York City last week the Village was abuzz. Everyone is worried about the Central Subway plan to end the tunnel bore, not at the Chinatown Station, but in the middle of Washington Square Park, even though no North Beach station is planned.,
Washington Square Park? The Village’s outdoor living room? That’s where the monster machine would come out of the ground after boring a tunnel under Stockton from the Chinatown Station to Columbus and then up Columbus to the Park.
Get ready for lots of shaking from the tunnel construction. Columbus will be closed from Vallejo to Union for utility relocation and surface work. Get ready for crazy street congestion. Get ready for a torn-up Washington Square Park. Get ready for the end of North Beach as we know it neighbors say.
I was amazed to hear long-time merchants predict that the Central Subway invasion will be North Beach’s death knell. It’s hard enough to attract customers now. Who will want to endure the construction mess? Some shopkeepers are already talking about shuttering their businesses for good even though the North Beach extension won’t start for years.
I’m hopeful that previously fractious elements of the community will coalesce to work out a solution to this latest threat to North Beach. Last Thursday’s Central Subway meeting at North Beach Restaurant was packed with neighbors, Telegraph Hill Dweller and North Beach Merchant Association members. That’s a good sign.
The 58th Annual North Beach Festival is next weekend, June 16-17. Don’t miss this opportunity to revel in all that North Beach has to offer. The weather will be superb.
Stroll Grant Avenue, the oldest street in San Francisco. Enjoy music, ranging from The Carol Doda Band to the Happy Strings’ Italian madolin and guitar classics. Picnic in Washington Square Park. Eat and drink to your heart’s content. Absorb all the art on the street and in the local galleries too.
The North Beach Festival fears over 125 arts and crafts booths, 20 gourmet food booths, three stages of live entertainments scattered around the Village, beverage gardens, children’s activities, the blessing of the animals at The National Shrine of Saint Francis of Assisi, and my personal favorite, Italian street painting.
While wandering the Village, discover the unique array of North Beach cafes, art galleries, boutiques, restaurants, pizzerias, delis and bars.
North Beach’s Victoria Pastry on the corner of Stockton & Vallejo makes some of my favorite cakes and pastries. They’ve only been doing it since 1914!
Victoria’s St. Honore rum-soaked sponge cake with vanilla pastry cream and their domed chocholate Fedora cake are two of the best.
For the last 6 months rumors that Victoria is closing, Victoria is moving, Victoria is renewing its lease swirled around the neighborhood. Now we know for sure.
I walked by the other day and the shop was festooned with these flyers announcing the move to the Filbert and Powell on the other side of Washington Square Park. The move is scheduled for July but it doesn’t look to me like the new Filbert Street space will be ready in time.
Word is that another bakery will take Victoria’s place. I hope it happens. North Beach needs a good bread bakery and a solid North Beach business to anchor the Vallejo Street corner.
Last night I walked past Steps of Rome on Columbus as I have since it opened 22 years ago. To my horror the door was locked, the bar stripped and the tables and chairs askew. Steps of Rome has closed.
No word yet on what will replace it and its trattoria a few doors down that closed months ago. I loved Steps’ leg of veal with roasted potatoes plate. Luckily we can still get that at L’Osteria del Forno down the street on Columbus between Union and Green.
Over the last 2 decades Walgreens and other chains that wanted to open here were blocked by neighborhood protest. Since 2005 chain stores with more than 11 outposts have been banned by the San Francisco ordinance designed to maintain North Beach’s unique character by keeping out “formula retail” chains that you can find anywhere in America.
So with that kind of protection how does Starbucks get into North Beach? It’s easy. Starbucks just announced that it will buy the local La Boulange Cafe and Bakery chain for a hundred million dollars. La Boulange has a cafe in North Beach.
La Boulange now has 19 cafes scattered around the Bay Area but when La Boulange de Columbus opened it was only the 5th cafe in a fast-growing chain. Some neighbors weren’t too happy about even a small chain moving in but La Boulange prevailed.
Starbucks could never get a North Beach permit on its own. The La Boulange purchase gives Starbucks a coveted North Beach outlet. Soon all Starbucks locations will only serve La Boulange baked goods and all La Boulange cafes will only serve Starbucks coffee.
I hope old-time North Beach institutions like Caffe Puccini, Caffe Trieste, Caffe Roma, Cavalli Cafe and Caffe Greco continue to flourish with Starbucks in their midst. We’ll see. I’m reminded of the bumper sticker supporting local roasters and coffeehouses from the early days of the Starbucks Bay Area invasion , “Friends Don’t Let Friends Go To Starbucks”. North Beach, take notice.