Italy in San Francisco

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San Francisco's North Beach neighborhood got its start with Italian immigrants and still retains a feeling of Little Italy. There are places outside North Beach that reflect the culture and cuisine of Italy, too.

Here are our recommendations for places to go Italian in San Francisco:

Italian Caffes

  • Steps of Rome Caffe: 348 Columbus Avenue in North Beach - At this popular caffe you'll find Italian music, Italian staff, Italian newspapers, and Italian coffee. They also serve pastries and light meals. Steps of Rome Caffe
  • Caffe Greco: 423 Columbus Avenue in North Beach - This our favorite place to go for espresso. Outdoor tables are great for North Beach people watching. Besides drinks, they have Italian desserts and gelato, sandwiches, salads, and light breakfast. Caffe Greco
  • Emporio Rulli Gran Caffe: 2300 Chestnut Street in the Marina District - A trip to the Gran Caffe makes us feel like we're in a northern Italian city. They have lots of mouth watering Italian pastries. Besides drinks, they serve meals although I've never eaten there. They also have branches at Union Square, San Francisco airport, and in Larkspur. Emporio Rulli Gran Caffe

Italian Restaurants

  • Macaroni Sciue' Sciue': 124 Columbus Avenue, just outside North Beach - Macaroni has an Italian atmosphere and has very good antipasti and pasta. They have a good selection of Italian desserts, wines, and beers. It's open every day for lunch and dinner. Macaroni Sciue' Sciue'
  • L'Osteria del Forno: 519 Columbus Avenue, North Beach - Small, inexpensive Italian osteria serving "everyday Italian food" run by two Italian women, one from Varese and one from Bologna. Specialties include the roast of the day, pizza and foccacia. There's a house wine and apertif. Open 11:30 to 10 (10:30 on Friday and Saturday), closed Tuesdays, cash only. L'Osteria del Forno
  • Incanto: 1550 Church Street in Noe Valley - The restaurant's rustic Italian design resembles restaurants in Italy. Although the chef isn't from Italy, the daily changing menu is based on principles of Italian cooking, using fresh ingredients and often features items you might not find in other Italian restaurants in San Francisco. There's a good Italian wine selection. It's open for dinner only, closed Tuesdays.
  • SPQR: 1911 Fillmore Street - SPQR serves Roman cuisine. The menu includes a variety of delicious antipasti and several pasta dishes. Dinner starts at 5:30 every day, lunch Monday-Friday 11:30 - 2:30, weekend Brunch 10:30-2:30. No reservations.

Shopping Italian

  • A. Cavalli Italian Book Store: 1441 Stockton Street off Columbus in North Beach - The store has been in business since 1880. They sell Italian books, magazines, greeting cards, videos, and gifts. They now have a cafe, too. The store is closed on Sundays.
  • Molinari's Deli: 373 Columbus Avenue in North Beach - Molinari's has been in San Francisco for more than 100 years. It has lots of Italian imports including wines, meats, cheeses, pasta, and dry goods. You'll still see many Italians shopping there, ordering in Italian. It's a good place for a sandwich. The deli is closed on Sundays.
  • Liguria Bakery: 1700 Stockton Street, in North Beach, bakes fantastic focaccia and that's it. When the bread's gone for the day, the shop closes. They've been around since 1911.
  • Italian French Baking Company: 1501 Grant Street, in North Beach - The baking company bakes bread daily in brick ovens. This is where I go for good reasonably-priced bread. They also have cookies.

Italian Culture

  • Museo Italo Americano at Fort Mason: The museum has a small permanent Italian art collection that includes a beautiful Sicilian cart, changing exhibits, special events and lectures, books, DVDs, a gift shop, Italian language classes and children's classes. The museum is open to the public daily, noon to 4:00, except Mondays, free.
  • Italian Cultural Institute of San Francisco: 425 Washington Street - The cultural institute holds special events, weekly films on Tuesday evenings, and lectures. They have exhibits and a large library and video library, Italian language classes. The Cultural Institute is open Monday-Friday, 9-5. They have a Saturday radio program at 8:00 am, Italian Culture around the Bay, on KUSF 90.3.