Off the Grid in North Beach

Off the Grid Food Trucks Will Gather Here

San Francisco food trucks are hot. These roving kitchens offer fantastic food from all over the world. Many follow their favorite trucks on Twitter and Facebook and track them down at various parking spots around the city.

Luckily, Off the Grid brings a horde of food trucks together in one place every week. Eat your way around the world at these round-ups, from appetizers to desserts.

If you don’t know about Off the Grid, here’s what they say about their weekly markets.

Off the Grid is your roaming mobile food extravaganza — bringing you delicious food, with free sides of music, craft and soul. Check out all your favorite gourmet food vendors in one place – creating markets like you’ve never seen before.

I don’t mind trekking to Fort Mason or Mint Plaza for an OtG food truck orgy, but I’m ecstatic that Off the Grid is bringing a market to North Beach. The soft launch is tomorrow,  Wednesday, 10/24.

Show up and make this the first of many weekly OtG North Beach markets. Food trucks and music galore, what’s not to like? See you there.

Off the Grid at North Beach’s Joe DiMaggio Playground.

Buon appetito!

 

Italian Festival Saturday

North Beach Festa Italiana

Don’t miss the annual Festa Coloniale Italiana this Saturday, August 11, 2012 on Washington Square in front of the San Francisco Italian Athletic Club (SFIAC).

The Festa is the only Italian festival that celebrates San Francisco’s Italian and Italian-American heritage. It’s our version of Ferragosto, the Italian mid-summer holiday.

Catch Italian music on the stage. Watch an Italian dance performance. Award-winning pizzaiolo Tony Gemignani will enthrall us with his world-famous pizza tossing skill. Stop in the SFIAC’s main ballroom transformed for the day into an Italian piazza complete with a fountain.

Sample delicious Italian-American street foods including calamari, sausage and pepper and meatball sandwiches. Enjoy wine and beer on the street or at the wine-tasting in the SFIAC’s 3rd floor Parkview Room with a terrace overlooking the park.

Here’s the whole Festa Italiana line-up.

I hope I see you there.

North Beach Walking Tour Saturday!

Gianni Guiding a North Beach Tour

Fans who took my tour a few months ago called to see if I would do a tour of North Beach for out-of-town guests this Saturday, April 28 at 11:00 a.m.

Do you want to join us?

Get to know my my favorite restaurants, bakeries, food shops, art galleries and North Beach history as we take a 90-minute stroll through the Village on a delightful spring day. We’ll eat together at one of my favorite caffes.  Enjoy antipasti, focaccia and a sampler of 3 Tuscan pastas with a glass of a special Chianti. Then we’ll head to another nearby caffe for espresso and the best cannoli or tiramisu in North Beach, your choice.

Tour with food–$50 per person. Tour without food–$25 per person. You can pay by cash or check at the start of the tour.

Just send me an email and I’ll save a spot for you or your group and I’ll let you know where to meet up. http://gianni.tv/about/contact-gianni/

Space is limited so sign up soon.

Pasta Primavera: Bowtie Pasta with Spring Vegetables

Farfalle with Early Spring Vegetables

The farmers markets are overflowing with early spring vegetables so I just had to make Pasta Primavera, farfalle (bowtie) pasta with just-arrived asparagus, fava beans and sweet peas.

Pasta Primavera is a classic Italian-American dish concocted by Sirio Maccioni and made famous at his Le Cirque restaurant in New York City in the 70s.

I adapted the classic recipe to lighten up the cheesy sauce. Sirio used spaghetti but today I chose farfalle to ensure that every forkful has some pasta and vegetables for a full flavor explosion in every bite.

This is a glorious bowl of springtime. The sweet fresh vegetables are bathed in the light cream sauce and their fresh taste shines through. The farfalle absorb the sauce full of spring vegetable flavor. The ricotta salata grated on top ties the dish together and kicks it up a notch.

I had an ulterior motive for cooking up the dish today. I’m making Pasta Primavera at a demonstration and tasting for 50 San Jose fans later this week. I wanted to make sure I still had it right this season.

Here’s the Farfalle with Spring Vegetables recipe just in case you get inspired at the market. Use my spring veggie trio or use whatever spring vegetables turn you on. Just don’t use more than 3 vegetables or the flavors will get muddled.

You can make the primavera sauce in the time that it takes to cook the pasta. Buon appetito.

[amd-recipeseo-recipe:89]

Battle of the Chefs in North Beach

Viola in the Italian Consul's Kitchen

My friend Viola Buitoni hails from Perugia in the region of Umbria. Viola is a wonderful cook and Italian culinary teacher and she’s hosting Battaglia dei Cuochi, the Battle of the Chefs, this Monday March 19 at the San Francisco Italian Athletic Club on Stockton overlooking Washington Square Park. Three great chefs representing three major regions of Italia vie for the honors and you pick the winner.

Here’s the line-up.

  • Michele Belotti, a classically trained rising-star from Piemonte, now heading the kitchen at Ristobar getting rave reviews in the Marina, will fight for the North.
  • Rutilio Duran, the Livornese chef owner of C’Era Una Volta in Alameda will champion the pride of Central Italy.
  • Calabria-born Massimo Covello, from Calabria, formerly of Piazza d’Angelo in Mill Valley, will take some time from his own restaurant venture to prove that Southern Italian cooking is hard to beat.

While enjoying the delicacies and sipping regional wines, try your luck at a raffle with food baskets and even an overnight stay with dinner for two at the fabulous Cavallo Point Lodge in Sausalito.

A cook-off, 2 dishes from each chef to enjoy with Italian wine pairings and a raffle. What more can you ask for? I’ll be there. Will you? Seats are still available. Buy your tickets online or at the door.

 

Join Gianni for a Culinary Tour of Emilia-Romagna

Bologna Produce Stall

The crowds have thinned and the September weather is glorious. The markets overflow. It’s one of my favorite seasons to visit Italia.

It’s a fine time to settle into the region of Emilia-Romagna the culinary heart of Italia. Prosciutto and parmigiano come from Parma and Reggio. Balsamic vinegar has been made in Modena for centuries. Bologna’s fabulous food has earned it the nickname “La Grassa” (The Fat One).

Join me for a fabulous 8-day culinary tour September 23-30, 2012. We’ll pick you up at the Bologna airport and then take care of all the details so that you can just enjoy your culinary adventure in Italia. We start on the Adriatic coast and make our way to Bologna at a leisurely pace.

  • Learn pasta-making from a real Sfoglina, a dying breed of dedicated pasta wizards
  • Hunt wild mushrooms in the Apennine foothills
  • Explore medieval villages and lesser-known food markets
  • Taste parmigiano reggiano, prosciutto di parma and balsamic vinegar where they’re made
  • Join home cooks and chefs for cooking demonstrations and hands-on classes featuring classic Emilia-Romagna dishes
  • Savor the food at unique and inspired restaurants

My travel partner Vanessa DellaPasqua of Global Epicurean and I will be your hosts and your guides. Join us for a journey that will heighten your appreciation and deepen your understanding of Italy’s food culture. You’ll meet a bunch of wonderful Italians too. They’ll share their culinary wisdom and kitchen secrets with you.

Get all of the Emilia-Romagna culinary adventure details. The tour is limited to 24 people. It will be like family.

Cook with Gianni Live in North Beach

Cooking Class at Cookhouse

My friend Chef Tom Herndon of Hipp Kitchen asked if I wanted to do a cooking class showcasing the rustic food of Italia. Tom teaches those with food allergies and sensitivities so I’m cooking without gluten, dairy, shellfish, soy or peanuts. We’re making a typical 4-course Italian meal at Cookhouse in North Beach.

The meal includes a selection my favorite classic dishes from several regions of Italia. I’m using the best local ingredients in season and simple preparations. You’ve seen me cooking some of these dishes in my kitchen and you’ve made others from my free recipes. Here’s your chance to cook them with me in a great kitchen.

We’ll cook in small groups and eat what we cook together at a big communal table. This is a hands-on class. Come ready to cook and ready to eat. Seats are filling up fast. Sign up for the March 24 class. Just email Chef Tom cheftom@hippkitchen.com.

Here’s what’s on the menu.

Antipasti (Before the Meal)

Brocoli rabe. Sauteed in EVOO with garlic and peperoncini. (Calabria)
Carciofi fritti. Baby aritchokes fried in EVOO and topped with a sprinkle of fresh mint and a squeeze of lemon. (Lazio)
Caponata. Spicy eggplant salad with tomato, onions, celery and capers. (Sicily)
Fra’Mani salumi. (USA)

Primo Piatto (First Course)

Spaghetti aglio e olio. Corn dried pasta imported from Italia with an anchovy, garlic, EVOO, peperoncini and walnut sauce.

Secondo Piatto (Second Course)

Porchetta. Pork loin roast stuffed with an herb paste.
Cipollini agro dolce. Cipollini onions in a sweet/sour sauce.
Potatoes roasted with rosemary and truffle oil.

Dolce (Dessert)

Macedonia. Apple, pear salad marinated with Prosecco and Italian chestnut honey.

Espresso.

400 Food Bloggers in SF

Zoe Francois and Jeff Hertzberg, M.D. from Bread in 5

I met many of the 400 passionate food bloggers who gathered at the annual Foodbuzz Blogger Festival this weekend in San Francisco. A full day of sharing ideas and techniques about blog writing, photos, building your audience. Boy, I learned a lot especially about photos, tips that I will use to up my pix game.

I stopped by to see Zoe Francois and Jeff Hertzberg of Bread in Five fame. Rick Kleffel interviewed them just before coming up to my place. Zoe and Jeff were handing out copies of their fantastic book Artisan Pizza and Flatbread in Five Minutes a Day. Gotta love their message. When you make pizza dough make enough to use that day and enough to stash a supply in your refrigerator. Heat up your oven and every day you can grab a hunk of dough and make a loaf of bread, a pizza or focaccia in just 5 minutes. That’s what I do and it keeps for about 2 weeks taking on a bit of a sour flavor near the end.

I’ll let you know when Rick Kleffel’s radio show will air and when his podcast is up.

NPR Interviewed Me

KUSP's NPR Rick Kleffel

I was making the tomato sauce base for Cioppino early Friday morning when Rick Kleffel arrived to tape an interview for his KUSP Santa Cruz NPR radio show and podcast.

“Smells wonderful in here,” Rick said as he entered.

Rick makes many of my dishes so we spent time in the kitchen talking about the Cioppino recipe and the relative merits of San Marzano DOP tomatoes. I told Rick that when I find a good DOP producer often I will stock up on their non-DOP tomatoes. The DOP growing zone may end at a road near Salerno but more tomatoes are grown across the road just outside the zone. Trust the producer, those tomatoes are just as good and cost about half the price.

I’ll let you know when the interview airs on KUSP and when the podcast is available on Rick’s website.

Pulcinella Mural Restoration Plan Hatched

Song of Pulcinella in Pieces

I checked in with Della and Lapo at Emerald Tablet Sunday morning. They’ve been instrumental in crafting our Song of Pulcinella mural restoration plan. We started to get our heads around the project. We need a carpenter. We need to talk to Vranas, the artist who created the mural. We need to get the restoration done quickly on a near zero budget.

I’ve met Vranas in North Beach caffes over the years, but I didn’t really know him. He’s lived in the Village, on and off, for decades. North Beach is home to four Vranas murals – the incredibly detailed Roman Forum at Viva, the Greek farm scene above Nature Stop’s produce case, the life-size portraits of great Irish writers at O’Reilly’s and the newest one, the one we almost lost – The Song of Pulcinella.

Sunday night we met at the gallery. Vranas saw his wrecked mural for the first time. He cried when he told me he was surprised anyone would try to save it. We’ve lost a lot of North Beach over the years. I didn’t want to add Vranas’ mural celebrating Napoli to the list of things that once were.

Lapo, Vranas, Gianni & Pulcinella (shot by Della)

Vranas said the mural could be made whole again. When I left hours later I was energized. Out of respect for one of North Beach’s great artists, Song of Pulcinella has to be put back together and hung in a place of honor for all to enjoy.

Next, I called North Beach handyman, Sean O’Donnell. I told him my story and asked if he could help. “I know Vranas. I’ll meet you at the gallery tonight. We’ll see.”

Vranas and Sean inspected the mural and explored options for putting it all back together. Vranas talked about imagining the work and how he created it. (Google Earth inspired the city part of the mural.) “Be careful with this raised edge” he warned Sean, “or we lose the trompe l’oeil.”

Restoration ideas filled the gallery. A plan was emerging. No power tools, so the studs may stay. Plywood backing to stabilize the drywall. The two big pieces reunited from behind and the fragments re-attached. Plaster to fill the gaps. We all agreed. Easy, huh? We’ve got two weeks to get the restoration done. I think this North Beach gang just might have a shot at it. Pulcinella is watching, you know.

Sean will start work on the mural Saturday. We’ll all be there. Stop by and say hello.

 

Village News/Sunday Recipe: Great Parade & Roasted Rosemary Chicken

Foam Painting at Caffe Puccini

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.

Gianni's Italian Heritage Parade Table

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.

 

My Annual Parade Lunch

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.

North Beach Italian Heritage Parade

 

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!

[amd-recipeseo-recipe:56]

Village News: Italian Heritage Parade Sunday!

Big Yellow Cab--Italian Heritage Parade

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.

A 33 Balilla Fiat in Washington Square

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.

 

North Beach Street Painting

 

 

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.

North Beach Street Painting

 

 

 

 

 

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.

A presto.

http://www.sfcolumbusday.org/parade/index.html

North Beach Sunday Farmer’s Market

North Beach Farmer's Market

Another great weekend in the Village. The SF Mime Troupe was in Washington Square Park Saturday afternoon along with an interesting art show in the park. Lots of visitors too. I had a hard time making my way down Columbus but the boys at Molinari say they can sense that the tourist season is coming to an end. Luckily the farm bounty continues unabated.

Sunday was a chilly, foggy morning and the Village was still abuzz.  North Beach denizens flocked to the Farmer’s Market near the library (Columbus/Mason). Each Sunday a dozen farmers bring in their organic harvest and are joined by others selling bread and baked goods, olives and olive oil, nuts, salmon and other goodies  –even a couple of food trucks make it out.

 

 

North Beach Farmer's Market

We strolled the stalls accompanied by the sweet strains of a cello playing at the end of the short street. The fruits, vegetables and flowers were picture-perfect. I couldn’t resist the zucchini flowers that I stuff with mozzarella and anchovy and fry in a light batter. The chard was colorful. I’ll saute it in olive oil infused with garlic to accompany veal rollatini stuffed with mozzarella, prosciutto and basil. Friends report San Marzano tomatoes in some markets but I haven’t seen them yet. The farmers tell me the San Marzanos won’t be in for a couple of more weeks. Let me know if you score any–I’m anxious!

Support the North Beach Farmer’s Market every Sunday morning. It’s a great Village asset that we don’t want to lose!

 

 

 

Kerouac Alley Fair

Kerouac Alley (between City Lights Books and Vesuvio off Columbus near Broadway) was busy Sunday as they set up A Fair to Remember— clothes, antiques, paintings, crafts, photographs (including color ’60s pix from the first North Beach strip club).

Kerouac Alley is a great Village venue during the entire year. You never know what will pop up there–a jazz quartet one time, R&B the next, and local artists exhibiting their works.

Keep an eye out on SFGate for what’s happening next on Kerouac Alley.

As a head’s up, I know artists will be in the Alley over the Columbus Day weekend. The North Beach festivities on Sunday October 9 include the Italian-Heritage parade–the oldest in the country. Can’t wait!

Friday Recipe: da Flora’s Arancini with a Spicy Aioli

Arancini with aioli

All of those who gathered at my private Sunday dinner at da Flora raved about our il pranzo. The women at da Flora were at the top of their game!

Jen, the genius in the kitchen, shared a couple of her recipes. Here’s my adaptation of her arancini and spicy aioli recipes. These rice balls and aioli are easy to make and are absolutely delicious.

[amd-recipeseo-recipe:24]

[amd-recipeseo-recipe:25]

More photos from the exclusive dinner event at da Flora…

North Beach & Chinatown Mix It Up for Noodle Fest

Italian flag? Maybe the Irish. Oh well.
There will be a video of the day soon, but until then, I just wanted to report what a beautiful day it was, and how much fun.

I enjoyed making pastas the colors of the Italian flag. (OK, I admit, the red bell pepper variety came out a little orange – so it was the Irish flag. Sue me.)

I also met chefs from some of my favorite North Beach restaurants (future dinner event details to come) and tasted some wonderful samples.

This is an annual event, and next year will be the third, so be sure to come out and be reminded of the authentic side of North Beach, and the ways in which it is complemented by Chinatown.