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We Love It Local: A North Beach Noël

North Beach is a bit of a riddle: it lies at the very center of San Francisco’s history, and it’s geography. It is the most charming and beautiful neighborhood in a city chock full of them, the most interesting locale in America’s most fascinating city. Yet somehow, North Beach remains hidden in the midst of all this, cloistered in our perfect little corner of paradise. The tourists find us, but mostly by accident, and not so many that it spoils our rarefied, quasi-European ambience.

It’s often said that people who live in North Beach need never leave the neighborhood; not if they don’t want to, anyway. It’s all here: the coolest shops, the best restaurants, the coziest bars, and the sunniest park benches. It’s not untrue, and a timely reminder for the holidays: when it’s time to tackle your Christmas list, remember all of the great shops right here in The Beach. Amazon never did anything for you, so this Christmas, log off and keep your money in the neighborhood. The merchants of North Beach are counting on you!

North Beach shines this time of year, and there’s a lot happening as we head into the deep season, comings and goings alike. As ever, we’ve got some new arrivals: Deck The Halls, a holiday-themed cocktail pop-up in the old Washington Square space, replaced lackluster The Square at the end of November; look for it to morph into new incarnation Lillie Coit’s in January. Just around the corner, Giovanni Italian Specialties also debuted on Union Street, with Tony Gemignani (Tony’s Pizza Napoletana, Capo’s) throwing his hat into the retail ring. Think fresh pasta, cheeses, Italian specialty products, high-end chef’s supplies and other goodies. The place looks great, and they’ve even got panzerotti (that’s deep-fried calzone, mister) on the weekends. 

Next, the much-hyped Eight Tables by George Chen was finally unveiled inside Broadway’s China Live, serving the most elaborate (and expensive) Chinese cuisine that San Francisco has ever seen. The Salzburg also opened on Union Street, an Austrian wine bar/café from the North Beach power couple behind Grant Avenue’s Little Vine. Plenty of riesling and small plates (including some tasty sausages) dominate the menu here, and the fire pit out back is sure to be a hit. 

From the team that brought us Little Vine: The Salzburg. | Photo: Joe Bonadio

Meanwhile on Columbus, the shuttered Panta Rei space has been taken over by Francesco Covucci (Il Casaro, Vicoletto). The Dough Boys is the current DBA, so expect pasta and more of Covucci’s terrific pizza. Vicoletto is also changing up, and word is Covucci will be serving pinsa there, a Roman ancestor of pizza that adds soy and rice to the more typical wheat flour, resulting in a lighter pie.

Alas, the neighborhood has also lost a couple of favorites. First among them, Caffè Puccini: in the early morning hours of October 10th, fire gutted the venerated café at 411 Columbus Avenue, apparently the result of something left on the stove overnight. No word on whether they will return, and we wish them the best of luck.

A few doors down, the team at L’Osteria del Forno are also (at teast temporarily) closing their doors on Columbus, after 27 years. For the time being, they are calling it a remodel, but it appears this may be the end for the local favorite. 

Lest we forget, next Thursday, December 14th brings the second annual North Beach Wine Walk to the nighborhood. A great event that pairs local wineries with North Beach retailers, this is a great way to mix things up, meet people, and pay an after-hours visit to our great retailers here in The Beach. Tickets are $25 ($30 on the day of the event), and judging from last year, it’s more than worth it. Get your tickets here, or at the bar at Belle Cora.

We’ll be back with more North Beach news, so bookmark us and be sure to come back soon. Happy Holidays!

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