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.
North Beach’s Italian-Heritage Parade, the oldest in America, is Sunday, October 7. Book your lunch table now at one of the many caffes and restaurants on the parade route. They’re going fast. It’s a fantastic holiday. You don’t want to miss it. Everyone will be there.
We’re in for a really special treat this year. Piero and Lorenza Cipriani are flying in from Italia laden with bounty from the fall harvest. Santo Esposito who owns Cavalli Cafe is pitching a big tent outside on Saturday & Sunday so the Ciprianis can share tastes of their Italian culinary loot with anyone who stops by.
They’re bringing this year’s extra virgin olive oil from a small producer in Tuscany, just-picked truffles from Emiglia-Romagna and Umbria, just-milled Tuscan chestnut flour and fresh and dried porcini mushrooms.
I’d kill for a fresh porcini. I like to grill them with garlic-infused olive oil and a light sprinkle of oregano or marjoram and sea salt. It’s like eating steak.
All of the Cipriani goodies are for sale so grab some while you can. And stop in Cavalli Cafe before you move on for an espresso and Santo’s cannoli, the best in all of North Beach. I hope I see you there after our Parade lunch party.
I have a few seats at my lunch table if you want to join us. Send me an email and I’ll let you know the details and where to meet up.
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.
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.
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.
The other night my Emerald Tablet friends and I put together a tasty family-style dinner at North Beach’s Vicoletto, the Calabrian restaurant on Green. We were talking about a Gianni’s North Beach cooking demonstration and tasting at their gallery and creative learning space. They don’t have a full kitchen so it would be a challenge.
Then it hit me. When I’m in Bologna I always stop at least once in at an enoteca (wine bar} for a plate of assorted Italian cured meats and cheeses. Your group huddles around a high table and nibbles on a plate full of distinctive tastes and textures. I pair Prosecco or a sparkling rose with this spuntino (little snack) that will tide us over until dinner much later in the evening.
We decided it would be fun to make believe we’re in Emilia-Romagna. We could host a salumi and cheese tasting with wine pairings at the gallery. I’ll source all of the meats, cheeses and wines right here in North Beach and demonstrate how to make some of my antipasti treats.
I’m excited about Bay Area artisan salumi and cheeses. We’ll taste the best of Italia and America. Will the local products stand up to their Italian cousins? Gianni’s North Beach most popular antipasti treats–vinegar peppers, giardiniera, and celery mostarda (chutney) pictured above–or other Gianni goodies will be on the antipasti platter. Maybe I’ll make my toy-box tomato focaccia too.
Learn where to buy the best in the Village. See how easy it is to put together a spectacular antipasti platter at home for a cocktail party or as the first-course for a home-cooked meal. Watch me make a few of my most popular antipasti dishes and take some with you to enjoy at home. Once you’ve tasted them, with my easy recipes you’ll be able to make them for yourself.
Let me know if this is an event that you’d attend. If there’s enough interest we’ll set a date at North Beach’s Emerald Tablet. As a bonus you’ll see the restored Song of Pulcinella mural there.
I’m jazzed. San Francisco’s own world-famous Italian cook, teacher and author Joyce Goldstein is preparing a Seder at Perbacco on April 10. The roots of this meal are in Square One, Goldstein’s sorely missed Jackson Square restaurant. She first served a Seder meal there in 1989 celebrating the food of the Italian Jewish kitchen.
I had forgotten about this event but an office-mate reminded me this morning. I called Perbacco right away to book an early table for 10 of us.
“Sorry” Perbacco’s Steven said. “Come at 8:45”. “Can’t do it,” I told him. How about three tables for four at 6:00.” “Yes I can do that but they won’t be together.” “That’s OK at least we’re in the door.” I wasn’t missing this meal.
A half-hour later my phone rang. It was Steven. “Just had a cancellation. I can give you a table for 10 at 5:30. It’s in the private room upstairs overlooking the kitchen.” “I’ll take it! Can you see down into the kitchen?” “Yes. I look forward to meeting you at the Seder.”
Score! Turns out the room sits 18 and half of the seats at the table are already claimed. So far we’re half Jewish and half Gentile.
So what am I so excited about? I’m a big fan of cucina Ebraica, the food of the Italian Jewish kitchen. Within a day or 2 each time I arrive in Roma I lunch at Giggetto al Portico d’Ottavia overlooking incredible Roman ruins in the Jewish Ghetto. My typical meal is carciofi alla Giudia, crispy fried artichokes in the Jewish style that look like a giant chrysanthemum on the plate, then spaghetti alla carbonara and last fried baccala (reconstituted dried-cod fillet) all washed down with chilled local Frascati. Here’s my video making the stuffed artichokes that I first had in the Ghetto.
I won’t be in Roma again until later this year so here’s my chance to enjoy some of the fantastic Italian food from the Ghetto right here in San Francisco.
I loved Square One and one of my favorite cookbooks is Joyce Goldstein’s Cucina Ebraica–Flavors of the Italian Jewish Kitchen. With Joyce and Perbacco’s maestro Staffan Terje in the kitchen this will be quite a night. Here’s the Seder menu. Give Stephen a call. He’s good. Maybe he can still find you a table on Perbacco’s busiest night of the year. Or, join our private communal table. Let me know if you’re interested and if any seats are available I’ll shoot you an email.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
Macedonia. Apple, pear salad marinated with Prosecco and Italian chestnut honey.
The starry skies and crisp nights in North Beach have been dazzling lately. The holiday spirit is in full bloom as neighbors and Village visitors leisurely stroll the sidewalks stopping in a store or market here, enjoying a meal or an espresso at a restaurant or caffe there.
I’ve been jazzed with the new places opening up since the summer. Park Tavern on Washington Square garnered great reviews. Tupelo, the new bar on Upper Grant, is packing a very interesting and mixed crowd into their spacious, relaxed watering-hole.
In addition, Al’s Attire (@ Vallejo) created a beautiful retro space for his fashion creations. Just up the street, “1814” showcases a wild collection of tees from several local artists. Park & Pond’s varied selection of products spotlights the work of local artisans. Little Vine has a vibe and service that remind me of the old-time North Beach markets now gone. And, you never know which local artists will be showing their newest work at Focus Gallery or Live Worms.
The annual North Beach Holiday Boutique Crawl – this Thursday, December 8, 6-9pm – is a great opportunity to discover the new businesses and to renew your ties to merchants who have been here for years.
Twenty-six great shops, galleries and studios on Upper Grant, Union, Stockton, Powell and Green Streets, are participating. Each merchant will have something special going on inside their shops.
Come out and support our local merchants. Support North Beach!
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 Fivefame. 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.
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.
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.
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.
What ever happened to the North Beach memorabilia collection at the North Beach Museum curated by Allesandro Baccari, Jr.? It was above Cavalli Cafe on Stockton until it suddenly disappeared several years ago. Rumors circulated all over the VIllage. Finally – mystery solved.
The answer was at the Old Mint downtown. All the North Beach Museum stuff was out of storage and on display. It took Al 3 weeks to install his fantastic private collection of North Beach’s Italian cultural and political memorabilia, ephemera and photos from the 1800s to present.
Baccari was born and raised in a prominent North Beach family and spent much of his youth with the Sicilians on Fisherman’s Wharf. He is an educator, businessman, museum curator and photographer. He founded the Fisherman’s Wharf Historical Society. His photography has been exhibited in museums around the world. He wrote a book on Fisherman’s Wharf and another on Saints Peter & Paul Church on Washington Square.
Al spent a lifetime collecting North Beach and Fisherman’s Wharf pix and artifacts. Photographs spanning 100 years of North Beach life–early 1900s vestments and altar pieces from the 2 churches in the Village – Italian Garibaldi and unification of Italia militaria–opera costumes, posters and musical instruments–prominent North Beach resident histories – and much more are all on display.
Al has a motto – “Keep the fish in Fisherman’s Wharf.” He’s a leader in the struggle to maintain the Italian and Asian fishing communities on Pier 43 near Scomo restaurant. Most people don’t even know it’s there but it’s the largest fishing fleet on the west coast! Al’s just as passionate about North Beach. The Old Mint exhibit is part of his effort to preserve North Beach history and share his intimate knowledge of our special Village with all.
The Old Mint is a beautiful building. The Baccari North Beach exhibit takes up the entire main floor – about 12 rooms-full – really worth a visit.
Mint Plaza is abuzz – stop in at Blue Bottle, Chez Papa or 55 Mint.
Here’s a peek of the Baccari exhibit. See which Village landmarks you can identify!
Recognize these two towers? The original church burned to the ground in the 1906 earthquake and fire. Almost twenty years later the church is reborn as “The Italian Cathedral of the West”.
Remember this Grant Avenue store that closed a decade ago. I loved the wall of small wooden drawers. The Figone boys knew which one held the screw you needed.
How about these twin steeples? One of the 2 churches that bookend my Village.
A beautiful accordian from the last century.
North Beach’s Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s original wall poem The Old Italians Dying chronicles a generational transition in the Village.
Song still fills the air in the Village–Neapolitan songs at Trieste–opera on Puccini’s jukebox–the opera singing waiter at Colloseo–rock and R&B in the Grant Ave joints.
It’s the 150th anniversary of Italia’s unification–some Garibaldi items from that time.
Wasn’t Angelo Rossi the Mayor who gave the orders to fire at the striking longshoremen on Bloody Sunday in 1934?
I hope Baccari’s extraordinary North Beach finds a permanent home–maybe at the Museo Italo Americano in Fort Mason or at the Istituto Italiano Culturale on Montgomery just below Broadway. If we’re lucky maybe some of the photographs will even make it back to North Beach. I’ll let you know if they do.