4 North Beach Treasures

Molinari Deli on Columbus

Marcia Gagliardi of Tablehopper blog fame shares her appreciation of 4 North Beach spots in her just-released video tour.

Marcia visits Caffe Trieste, Molinari Deli, Liguria Bakery and Stella Pastry. Find out Marcia’s favorite coffee, focaccia, sandwich and sweet. I’m with her all the way. These are some of my favorite North Beach haunts.

If those tourists in the picture took my North Beach walking tour, or Marcia’s video tour, they wouldn’t have to scour that big map to figure out where to go.

Where’s the best cannoli? Want a quick pasta fix? I have a few ideas. Who’s still cooking inspired, authentic food you find in Venice, Tuscany, Rome, Calabria and Sicily? Want pizza? I always head to one of 4 places.

Tired of Italian, God forbid?  How about Mexican, Thai, French, or American? All of my favorite shops, markets, restaurants, cafes, bakeries, art galleries and bars are on our route, as we leisurely stroll through the Village.

Come out of the fog. Make North Beach your own. Let me know if you’re interested in my 90-minute North Beach walking tour and I’ll schedule one soon.

In the meantime, take Marcia’s North Beach video tour.

Chinese Bakery Replaces Victoria Pastry

Victoria Pastry’s New Home Taking Shape

Victoria Pastry has been in North Beach since 1914. The Vallejo and Stockton corner bakery closed last month to move to a new space on Filbert and Powell on the other side of Washington Square Park.

As word about Victoria’s closing spread many wondered whether the south side of Vallejo would maintain its North Beach ties or solidify its ties to Chinatown.

I learned that a Chinese bakery will open in the Victoria Pastry space. The windows are covered and the renovation is underway. The only Italian business left on that side of Vallejo is Tony Gemignani’s new Capo’s restaurant and bar opening in a couple months.

While taking a Sacramento group on my North Beach walking tour I was happy to see some signs of progress at Victoria’s new spot. The build-out is well underway and this mural on the side of building was recently completed.

I can’t wait until I can buy Victoria Pastry’s St. Honore cake, a rum-soaked sponge cake filled with vanilla pastry cream and topped with cream puffs. That’s the St. Honore cake in the first panel of the new mural.

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.

Discovering North Beach–A Post From Italia

Gianni Guiding a North Beach Tour

Nuok is an Italian travel, art and food site. A recent post by Alessandra Maffei who lives in Roma celebrates North Beach.

“The air was soft, the stars so fine, the promise of every cobbled alley so great that I thought I was in a dream.” is Alessandra’s North Beach memory.

Gianni was her online tour guide as she discovered the Italian treasures in our Village. She loved all that North Beach has to offer and here’s what she said about Gianni.

Se avete voglia di scoprire dove la gente del posto scova le migliori prelibatezze made in Italy abbiamo un nome per voi: Gianni Mola, chef di origini italiane e profondo conoscitore sia della nostra cucina che dei segreti gastronomici di North Beach, famoso per il suo show online e le sue visite guidate in giro per il quartiere.

Insieme a Gianni scoprirete la focaccia della Liguria Bakery, i cannoli del Cavalli Café e la pizza di Baonecci; comprerete la migliore carne al Little City Market di Stockton Street, per poi recarvi allo Union Street Produce per trovare tutto l’occorrente per cucinare un perfetto piatto italiano.

Oh, don’t speak Italian? Here’s my attempt to translate for you.

If you want to discover where the locals seek out the best made in Italy delicacies we have ​​a name for you: Gianni Mola, chef and connoisseur of the Italian cuisine that is the secret of our food in North Beach, famous for his show online and his tours around the neighborhood.

Together with Gianni discover the focaccia from Liguria Bakery, cannoli from Cavalli Café and Baonecci’s pizza; the best meat you can buy at Little City Market on Stockton Street, before heading to Union Street Produce to find everything you need to cook a perfect Italian dish.

Wow, thanks to the folks at Nuoc. Here’s the post with some great North Beach pictures. For those of you fluent in Italian how’s my translation?


North Beach Italian Restaurant List

Two of Many Green Street Restaurants

I found a Yelp list of North Beach Italian restaurants listed 1 to 50. Actually there aren’t 50 places. Some are listed more than once and a couple have closed. Before you get to the list and all of the comments I can’t help adding my updates and observations about North Beach restaurants with links to a few recent posts. I even threw in recipes from 2 of my favorite restaurants on the list.

La Felce is closed. It’s now Tony’s Pizza Napoletana. Pulcinella closed but Tony will soon launch Capos featuring Chicago deep-dish pizza in that space. A total renovation down to the studs is moving at a rapid pace. Large black and white photos of infamous Chicagoans like Al Capone and an Art Deco bar with a vintage cash register from Chicago are part of new interior mix. Then there’s that mural found behind a wall during the renovation. The oil on canvas mural that captures Vallejo Street in all its 50s glory will be re-installed. I can’t wait to see the new space and eat a deep-dish pizza.

The list includes some of my favorite places like BaoNecci and da Flora where I hosted private dinners. da Flora’s chef Jen McMahon shared her arancini recipe with us. A star at the Tuscan dinner at BaoNecci was Stefania’s Ribollita vegetable soup. I was able to coax the recipe out of her after the dinner.

Ten on the list are included in my North Beach walking tour. Sotto Mare is one of them. I’ll tell you what I think of the others too and let you know my favorite North Beach places for souffles, cheeseburgers, fried chicken, po’boys and more.

North Beach is on fire. A new place just opened last weekend. Don’t miss out. Visit our Village soon. I’m sure you’ll find a good place to eat. Here’s the Yelp list of North Beach Italian restaurants.

Broadway Corridor Coming Back

Clouds Over North Beach's Broadway Are Clearing

“It takes a village,” was the frequent refrain at a community meeting at Broadway Studios. The group gathered to develop a strategy to bring Broadway back. Call me crazy but after years of decline I think it’s happening. Maybe the transformation of Big Al’s sex shop into a food market is a harbinger of things to come. Instead of blow up sheep and sex toys you can now get a bologna and cheese sandwich!

Broadway from Columbus to Montgomery is an iconic corridor that helped make North Beach famous. Carol Doda was the first to go topless at the Condor (check out the original sign). We still talk about Enrico Balducci and his restaurant many years after the death of both. Tourists and locals jammed the drag queen shows upstairs at Finocchio’s. Balducci’s Hungry i was a national showcase for young singers, musicians and comedians that boosted many careers.

The 10 year slide may finally be over. The Broadway meeting brought together club owners and their group Voice of Broadway and a number of North Beach organizations. Representatives from North Beach Neighbors, Telegraph Hill Dwellers, North Beach Coalition, the North Beach Merchants Association and an aide to Supervisor Chiu all participated. On the agenda was a presentation from San Francisco SAFE on creating a Community Watch. The idea was well received. If adopted the North Beach Community Watch will be an umbrella organization to develop a revitalization strategy, keep all of the individual groups connected, coordinated and in constant communication.

Many said the weekend violence and outrageous drunken behavior is caused by carloads of people drinking and cruising Broadway. They congregate in dimly lit, unsupervised parking lots in the early morning hours and trouble brews. One resident said looking out his window to Broadway on a Saturday night is like watching a Cop’s episode. Club owners said this crowd doesn’t even patronize their establishments. This behavior must end for Broadway to survive.

There are  dance places, nightclubs, pizzerias and restaurants to enjoy on Broadway. The Beat Museum is a must visit. The Enrico’s space is now the Basque restaurant Txoko garnering rave reviews. The owners of Broadway Studios have ambitious plans for the street level retail space. Everyone wants Broadway back before America’s Cup. There’s money to be made!

To be honest I wasn’t a Broadway fan. I didn’t include Broadway on my walking tours, just talked about it from afar. Broadway is now a stop on my North Beach tour and I’m staying involved with the efforts to tame and revitalize the Broadway Corridor. The Village is on the march to reclaim Broadway as its own. I think my neighbors united will win.


North Beach Hot Spot Raves

Gigi's Sotto Mare on Green

Quite a week for the Village. Two great Chronicle restaurant reviews and USA Today named a North Beach pizzeria the best in the country. North Beach is on fire!

Gigi’s Sotto Mare on Green is one of the last remaining traditional Italian-American restaurants. Gigi’s first restaurant was in North Beach decades ago and he wanted his last to be in the Village too.

He returned to the neighborhood several years ago to beautifully restore the building that houses his Sotto Mare, the wonderful Calabrian restaurant Vicoletto and a hotel on the upper floors. Sotto Mare is a cool retro space with lots of silly tchotchkes. Gigi’s remodel really captures the spirit of North Beach as it was a couple of decades ago.

Fish, of course, is the star of Sotto Mare (Under the Sea). Check out the white board as you enter. Gigi lists the day’s really fresh catch that he’s cooking that night. If the catch doesn’t float your boat there’s always the cioppino, one of the best in the City. Here’s Michael Bauer’s review.

(Gigi’s your “hidden” Village fishmonger. You can buy any of the day’s catch to cook at home.)

The Park Tavern on Washington Square

It’s been a rough road since the original Moose’s closed. No one was able to gain traction in this fabulous location. The space had recently been dark for quite a while. I was worried. They said it couldn’t be done — a successful successor to the iconic Moose’s on Washington Square.

Well Park Tavern did it. It’s been packed since it opened about six weeks ago. Michael Bauer gave Anna Weinberg & Jennifer Puccio 3-stars in the Sunday Chronicle! Bravo Park Tavern! Welcome to North Beach Anna, Jennifer and your fabulous staff. And thanks for anchoring this side of the Square. The block is back!

Jeremy Fish Mural on Tony's Union St. Wall

I couldn’t wait when I heard Tony Gemingnani was coming to the Village. I heard about his pizzeria in the East Bay and the pizza competitions he won in Napoli. After a substantial renovation of the old La Felce space Tony’s Pizza Napoletana opened the doors and the crowds poured in. When I finally could get a seat a few weeks later I wasn’t disappointed.

A pizzeria, the Slice House and a pizza school all under one roof!  Tony’s Pizza on Washington Square is a wonderful North Beach asset.

Tony’s makes Roman pizza bianca in an electric oven; East Coast pizza in a coal-fired oven; pizza Margherita in a wood-burning beehive oven and so much more. Best pizzeria in the country proclaimed USA Today. Bravo Tony. Thanks for bringing your talents to the Village.

Don’t miss the Jeremy Fish installation on the Union Street wall, a stop on my North Beach tour. The symbolism in this piece is overwhelming. See the hands as waves on the ends? They represent the hands of the pizzaiuolo (pizza maker).

(If you aren’t in the mood for pizza try Tony’s fantastic Chicago Beef sandwich at The Slice House. Make sure you tell them to “dip it”!)

“Basic Italian”

The Bold Italic article page

Local writer Matt Baume penned a fabulous write-up of me for The Bold Italic, a beautifully-designed San Francisco web magazine that bills itself as “an experiment in local discovery.”

Gianni Mola [is] a neighborhood fixture in North Beach who knows his way blindfolded around every corner market, pizza joint, and delicatessen. There isn’t a meal served in North Beach that Gianni isn’t familiar with.

I’d certainly like to believe that! The piece really gets to the heart of what I’m trying to do here in my little Italian village of North Beach – carry on the age-old cooking, eating, and socializing customs of Italia, and advocate for them to others.

Of course, I’m not the only food-loving person on the planet doing that, but I do feel that North Beach as a capital of authentic Italian culture is under-appreciated, and as a neighborhood, often misunderstood.

That seems to come across clearly in this article, and additionally (unlike so many sites our there), it looks good enough to eat.

Thanks, Matt!

25% Off North Beach Walking Tour This Saturday

Gianni stops walking to do some talking
Gianni stops walking to do some talking

If you’re in San Francisco this weekend, come spend 90 minutes with me. I’m excited to be guiding another walking tour through North Beach – always an opportunity for meeting great folks. I’ll tell you all about my Italian village, its history, its food, its characters.

And, you’ll sample some of my favorite pizza!

If you want to discover the hidden North Beach, join me this Saturday. Enter promo code “walker” to get 25% off. The tour is limited to 15 walkers. RSVP early:

Saturday, Jan. 29th walking tour of North Beach, 2pm
Saturday, Jan. 29th walking tour of North Beach, 2pm
Gianni walks you through the heart of North Beach, and feeds you some authentic Italian-style pizza. Purchases are processed through “Hungry Village,” our parent company. This is what PayPal will display.

Be sure to follow us on Facebook for announcements of future events.

Pizza & History

Gianni stops walking to do some talking
Gianni stops walking to do some talking
Gianni stops walking to do some talking

The first North Beach walking tour on January 8th was a great success. I had a lot of fun, and the feedback was extremely positive.

So we’re doing it again this Saturday, January 15th, at 2pm. You can buy tickets via PayPal below.

We had a healthy mix of folks last Saturday, from out-of-towners, to recent transplants, to SF natives. I enjoyed sharing my knowledge of San Francisco’s culinary capital, both current and historical.

Plus, folks really enjoyed the pizza!

If you want to discover the hidden North Beach, join me this Saturday. The tour is limited to 15 walkers. RSVP early:

Saturday, Jan. 15th walking tour of North Beach, 2pm
Saturday, Jan. 15th walking tour of North Beach, 2pm
Gianni walks you through the heart of North Beach, and feeds you some authentic Italian-style pizza. Purchases are processed through “Hungry Village,” our parent company. This is what PayPal will display.
Price: $12.95