North Beach, or Little Italy, is a vibrant neighborhood nestled underneath Coit Tower. It’s a stones throw away from the bustling financial district. The community is centered around Washington Square, which is currently under construction, and the Saints Peter and Paul Church which was built in 1924.
North Beach has a variety of unique shops to pop into, from galleries to Italian mom and pop delis. One of the most notable stores in the area is City Lights Booksellers and Publishers, which was established in 1953. They carry both classic literature and new books. If you’re looking to be inspired, City Lights is the ideal place to browse; with posters highlighting the freedom of the press and a wide assortment of activism literature, this store truly embodies the liberalism of San Francisco.
After picking up a book, I’d recommend spending an hour diving into music of the past. The 101 Music shop in this shot used to be one of my favorites before it closed, with a jam-packed basement full of treasures, but now I beeline to it’s other location on Grant Street. With a plethora of rock and jazz vinyls, it is easy to lose track of time flipping through the stacks and find yourself summoned back into the past.
Across the street, you’ll find Schein & Schein, which sells old books and maps. Gain some perspective by looking through maps of San Francisco throughout the decades. I guarantee that you’ll be surprised by how much the city has changed with time.
One of the main reasons that I keep coming back to North Beach is because of the food scene. After perusing through some books and records, it’s time for a caffeine kick, so head down to Caffe Trieste for a steaming cappuccino and a warm atmosphere. Caffe Trieste has been serving the community since 1956 and they were the first espresso coffee house established on the west coast. Black and white photographs line the walls above the prized jukebox. One of the coolest aspects about this cafe is that Francis Ford Coppola wrote the script of the movie the Godfather right in these walls.
A short walk from Caffe Trieste is Golden Boy Pizza. North Beach is filled with traditional pizza eateries, but Golden Boy is more casual and there’s always heavy metal playing out of the speakers which is really fun.
Some honorable mentions are XOX Truffles, which make their own delightful chocolates and the Stinking Rose, a self-proclaimed garlic restaurant.
Complete your Little Italy food tour by popping into one of the many delicatessens to pick up some Italian speciality items.
Searching for artistic inspiration? In my opinion, North Beach is often overlooked in terms of public art, especially in comparison to the famous Mission District murals. Still, in hidden corners or on street signs, there is a strong arts movement in this neighborhood. The streets of North Beach really embody the idea of beauty being found in the most unexpected places, an aspect that I really love.
You’ll never be bored in this vibrant community. Thank you for coming along and I hope that you have the opportunity to explore the neighborhood on your next trip across the Golden Gate Bridge.