San Francisco Neighborhoods, North Beach

Friday April 29, 2011 at 12:12 AM | 3 Comments

Welcome to the Neighborhood, A Series About San Francisco Neighborhoods


Coit Tower, San Francisco neighborhood, North Beach, Travel, Nancy D. Brown

North Beach

One of San Francisco’s oldest and most visited neighborhoods, North Beach has much to offer a traveler who wants to spend a few hours exploring one of America’s best neighborhoods, a distinction from the American Planning Association.

APA Executive Director Paul Farmer said “We are pleased to celebrate not only North Beach’s commitment to tolerance and tradition in its built and social environment, but its commitment to preserve its essential character.”  Spend some time at a few of our recommendations in this neighborhood, and you will experience for yourself some of that essential character.

Set the North beach cliches aside, slow your pace, and engage all of your senses to truly appreciate this compact neighborhood.


Molinari Delicatessen, North Beach, San Francisco, travel, Nancy D. Brown


First off, let’s engage your sense of taste. Since North Beach is generally considered the destination for basic (read: bland) red sauce Italian food, we suggest you bypass the checkered tablecloth restos and instead graze through the neighborhood at three of our favorite culinary destinations. Each of these spots has been turning out their specialities for around 100 years, so not only will you have some delicious food, you’ll also have an authentic experience from the original food artisans in the city.

Molinari Delicatessan on Columbus at Vallejo. We can’t say this enough: best salame in town. And that’s saying a lot since charcuterie and cured meats are having their moment in the Bay Area. Molinari’s is having more than a moment – for over 110 years, they’ve been making salami in SF.  It’s world famous (one was even presented to the Pope!), and with good reason. To try it for yourself – take a number and order about “this much” of the sliced salame from the deli case. Eat it on the spot. If you love it, take home your own three-pounder hanging from the ceiling.

Victoria Pastry. Opened in 1914, this Italian bakery houses an original massive brick oven which accommodates up to 25 full sheet pans side by side. It takes a lot of muscle to work the oven that turns out delicate pastries and cakes; two of our faves are the Cassata Siciliana Cake and the cannoli.

Italian Slice House, pizza, San Francisco, North Beach, travel

Liguria Bakery. This tiny shop made focaccia long before it became trendy & still stands on the corner where it opened in 1911 (happy 100th birthday!).  We suggest arriving early at the bakery, because when they sell out of the focaccia – which they do almost every day –  they close up shop. Our two favorite flavors are the pizza and the rosemary, but you just can’t go wrong here.

And if you want to check out the new kid on the block, go to Tony’s. There are now a plethora of awesome pizza destinations in the city; one of our favorites is Tony’s – either the Pizzeria Napoletana or the Slice House next door. World Pizza Cup winner Tony Gemignani offers multiple options – Sicilian style, Napoletana thin crust, by the meter…and it is all very, very, very good. If you eat in the resto, check out the wood fired oven from Naples – it’s the World Cup oven Tony brought back from Naples.


The food gets most of the glory in this neighborhood, but the shopping is pretty great too. Like most San Francisco ‘hoods, you’ll find unique shops offering merchandise you can’t find anywhere else.

Al’s Attire. This is more than a shop, think of it as your personal designer. Al’s Attire specializes in custom suits, coats, hats, shoes, dresses…basically anything that can be sewn. The fabric selection is dazzling. The space is so cool. The people are super friendly. There are beautiful ready-made items available as well. How beautiful? We’ve seen grown men cry.

Indie Industries. This small but well-stocked shop is owned by the designers who produce most of the items in the store. The designer collective includes the founding members – FIT grads from NY – and Bay Area designers, who design and make both men’s and women’s clothing. This is a great place to pick up something unique and reasonably-priced for yourself and for those back home.

Aria. You will find eccentric, eclectic, odd and beautiful vintage items from around the world at Aria. Very Tim Burton-ish meets your high school science classroom meets the best flea market booth you’ve ever seen.


North Beach Alley, San Francisco Neighborhood, Travel


Well it’s five o’clock somewhere. Let’s cocktail!

Don Pistos. Mexican in North Beach, okaaaaay. It’s out of character for the ‘hood, but manages to fit right in. We like to take a break here with a Michelada – a bloody mary type beverage that’s made with beer instead of vodka. It’s a nice change of pace in North Beach, and one of the best Micheladas we’ve ever had.

Comstock Saloon. If Ivory-Merchant were to do a period piece on the San Francisco of yore, they would be inspired by Comstock Saloon. This spot has served as a watering hole for San Franciscans since 1907, and the beautiful restoration puts the patrons right back in that era. The cocktails are very 2011 however. The Southside is our fave Comstock cocktail at the moment, with the Manhattan coming in a close second.

Tosca. Everything you want your North Beach bar to be: opera and Frank on the juke box (vinyl naturally), red leatherette booths, a long curving bar. The whole place has a sepia-toned feel to it. The best thing to complement the atmo is the “house coffee”. You may never take your coffee black again.

What is your favorite neighborhood in San Francisco? What are your favorite things to do in San Francisco?

Related Posts:

San Francisco Neighborhoods – Divisadero Corridor

San Francisco Neighborhoods – Pacific Heights

Things to Do in San Francisco

Where to Eat Cheap in San Francisco

Celebrate Earth Day – Third Planet from the Sun

Friday April 22, 2011 at 12:12 AM | 0 Comments


Aztec and Mayan Interpretation of the Planets

On a recent trip to Los Cabos, Mexico, I had the opportunity to view the moon with a powerful telescope.  With the help of Mexican Astronomer Maria Elena Muriel, I was able to view Saturn, as well.  Muriel explains the stars and planets to guests of Marquis Los Cabos from an Aztec and Mayan viewpoint; one of many things to see and do during a visit to Los Cabos, Mexico.

Maria Elena Muriel shared this poem with me and I would like to share it with you on Earth Day.

The Third Planet from the Sun

This is the third planet from the sun

A very small blue sphere orbiting

a space – for a moment.

An extraordinary place, capable to create

The conditions to produce the phenomenon

we call “life.”

Where each creature is as unique as this

World that we call house and where the

day begins almost the same way for everyone.

Maybe one day when you receive a warm sunbeam

or the kindness of a stranger, you will discover

how a single life reaches to many others.

You will understand how things are intertwined between

each other, just as the veins joining at the same family,

and that the humanity is not the one that weaves

the fabric of life, but we are the only one more of

its threads.

And everything we do to that fabric, we do it

to ourselves in the third planet from the sun.

This is not just another planet,

it is our home.

What are your favorite things to do in Los Cabo San Jose, Mexico?

Related Post:

Mini Spa Treatments at Marquis Los Cabos

Flavor Napa Valley – Must Do Food and Wine Festival in Northern California

Friday April 15, 2011 at 12:12 AM | 0 Comments

chefs, napa valley, food, restaurant

Napa Valley Chefs to participate in Flavor Napa Valley culinary festival

Flavor Napa Valley

Lights! Camera! Action! Cut – take two: Wine! Food! Fun! That’s more like it. It’s true. Food Network stars, along with Napa Valley’s leading chefs and winemakers, will align themselves with the stars and shoot for the moon in Napa Valley this fall.

The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone and Silverado Resort and Spa are the places to be mid-November for rubbing shoulders with Napa Valley’s food and wine leaders. Napa Valley’s own culinary creation, Flavor Napa Valley, will feature four days of wine, food and fun in Calistoga and Napa, California.


Chef Thomas Keller

Chef Thomas Keller lends support to Flavor Napa Valley

Napa Valley High Profile Chefs

High profile chefs including Tyler Florence, Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto,  Michael Chiarello,  Thomas Keller,  Jeff Jake,  Ken Frank and Cindy Pawlcyn will participate in the November 17-20, 2011 food and wine celebration.

Michael Chiarello CIA Graduate

Chiarello, a graduate of the CIA, was one of the catalysts involved in the creation of Flavor Napa Valley.

“A signature event in Napa Valley was long overdue,” said CIA graduate and Bottega Chef and Owner Michael Chiarello.

Proceeds from Flavor Napa Valley will go to support scholarships at the CIA Greystone campus.

The four day event will launch with a welcome dinner at the Silverado Resort featuring Chef Jeff Jake, Go Fish, Mustard’s Grill and Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen Chef Cindy Pawlcyn and Scarpetta Chef Scott Conant.

Friday features The Appellation Trail a Napa Valley wine tasting event at CIA Greystone.

Food and Wine Magazine hosts a lunch with Bottega Chef Michael Chiarello on Saturday, along with cooking demonstrations and winemaker dinners at Silverado Resort.

Sunday closes with a brunch by Mill Valley’s Tyler Florence, more cooking demonstrations and wine tasting with Napa Valley’s best.



Chef Masaharu Morimoto

Chef Masaharu Morimoto

Napa Valley Food and Wine on Twitter

Social media types may follow Flavor Napa Valley and participating chefs on Twitter and follow Nancy D. Brown on Twitter, too.

Chef Michael Chiarello

Chef Tyler Florence

Chef Ken Frank @LaToque

Chef Jeff Jake, @SilveradoResort

@Chef _Keller

Iron @Chef_Morimoto

Chef Cindy @Pawlcyn

What are your “Must Do” events in Napa Valley, California?

If You Go:

Purchase Tickets for Flavor Napa Valley

Related Posts:

Best Things to See and Do in Calistoga, California

Best Things to See and Do in Napa, California

Chef photo courtesy of James Carriere. Photos of Thomas Keller and Masaharu Morimoto by Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown.