My producer Jeff Diehl and I were making plans to shoot three new episodes last month. Amy Crawford and Mike Koozmin, a reporter and photographer at the San Francisco Examiner, asked if they could join us. After wrapping the last episode and sharing chicken escarole soup, sausage frittata and calamari fritti hot out of the pan, we sat down to talk about North Beach, my village-style of living here, and our website. I think they nailed it in the piece:
A lawyer by training but an epicurean by nature, Mola stars in “Gianni’s North Beach,” a cooking show that airs online at Gianni.tv. On the program, he demonstrates family recipes made with distinctive ingredients found in local Italian shops, which he plugs by name. Mola also blogs about North Beach, leads walking tours of the neighborhood and hosts dinners at North Beach restaurants.
It’s all part of his effort to keep the Italian-American culture of North Beach alive.
What a day–the fog finally burned off as we headed down the hill to North Beach’s Caffe Puccini to watch the 143rd Italian Heritage Parade–the oldest in the country. Hundreds were lining the parade route already. The tables set up in the street all over the Village were starting to fill up.
We were early. We needed espresso before the party started. Here’s what they gave us. Wasn’t that long ago at Caffe Puccini when a customer asked the barista Antonello for a decaf cappuccino with skim milk he’d scoff “Whaddaya think this is–a pharmacy?” They only had regular coffee and whole milk back then. Not any more–they make it all.
Parade Sunday I always have this table right inside the windows at Caffe Puccini. San Francisco and New York City friends and fans joined my table–a great group drawn together by the biggest Village event of the year.
Graziano didn’t disappoint–antipasti with roasted peppers, fried eggplant, prosciutto, mozzarella fresca with sundried tomato to start. Everyone ordered whatever they wanted after that.
For me it’s always the same meal–an annual tradition. Here’s Graziano’s lasagna alla bolognese–rich and cheesy with that long-cooked brick red meat sauce. The chicken is simply roasted with potatoes and rosemary and is today’s Sunday Recipe. The Volpaia Chianti Classico is one of my favorites. It sold out fast but we got Graziano’s last bottles stashed behind the bar. An absolutely delicious lunch.
By the time we finished the parade appeared before us. Here’s Queen Isabella’s float accompanied by her Court.
Hope to see you at the Parade next year. Enjoy my adaptation of Graziano’s Tuscan chicken roasted with potatoes and rosemary. Buon appetito!
North Beach’s biggest event of the year is this Sunday–the 143rd Annual Italian Heritage Parade–the oldest in America. You gotta be here–it’s a great day in the Village.
Floats, politicians, bands, Queen Isabella and her Court, Cristoforo Columbo himself–the Parade has it all and it only takes about an hour to pass by. And we’re celebrating the 150th anniversary of the unification of Italia too!
All of the Village restaurants and caffes along Columbus and Stockton set up tables in the street. Everyone has their favorite restaurant. I’ve been going to the same place to watch the Parade and eat a leisurely lunch with friends for over 20 years.
It’s hard to get a prized table on the street—there are only 11 ten-tops where I go and the same families have ruled over them for decades. Each table always seems to have a capo the boss who tells everyone where to sit, what to eat, when to order. It ain’t an easy job. You can see one above surveying his domain.
I sat at a street table only once—and that was 10 years ago when some people couldn’t make it and we grabbed the 4 seats. Can’t prove it but I think the Parade curbside tables were the inspiration for the curbside parklets sprouting up all around the Village.
Anyway, I have the best table—right inside the open sliding windows on Columbus. We’re about a foot above the street—a great spot to watch the Parade and the passing sidewalk crowd.
No special orders. Antipasti platter, lasagna al forno, chicken and vegetables roasted with rosemary to a golden brown, focaccia and a fantastic Chianti–a simple meal from Lucca and every year it’s my Parade Sunday lunch.
Don’t miss the antique car and Ferrari show in Washington Square. Wander down after the Parade. It’s a great spot to watch the Blue Angels soaring overhead–part of the Fleet Week celebration down on Fisherman’s Wharf.
I like to go down early Sunday morning to grab a cappuccino and catch a glimpse of the artists finishing up their street painting. Gotta look around for where they’ll be–one year on Stockton near the Square–the next on Green/Columbus. It’s worth the search–there’s always some great work to discover.
Don’t miss all the fun–hope to see you in the Village Sunday! I’m sure you’ll find a good spot to watch the Parade and eat some great food too.