By now, you’ve probably roamed through the streets of Chinatown and sat by the water at Fisherman’s Wharf. But perhaps you have yet to wander into the adjacent North Beach. North Beach is San Francisco’s Little Italy. It has historically been home to many Italian-Americans and used to be an actual beach before the city’s borders were extended. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing spot to read a book while sipping some high-quality espresso or simply looking to grab a hot slice of pizza, North Beach should definitely be your go-to spot.
Mama’s on Washington Square
Mama’s on Washington Square has long been considered one of the best brunch places in the city. Be sure to get up early so you can beat the rush. You may end up waiting over an hour for a seat, but it will have been worth it. Mama’s makes traditional brunch dishes like omelets and French toast so well, you can tell that they’ve been in the business for five decades. Our favorite is the vegetarian eggs benedict, with a poached egg cooked to perfection and a smooth hollandaise sauce. On your way out, be sure to grab some fresh focaccia at Liguria Bakery just across the street. But hurry because they usually sell out before noon.
No doubt enjoying the afterglow from brunch, take a little break at the adjacent Washington Square Park. This park that housed numerous people after the 1906 earthquake is just the serene place you need to sit on the grass and relax amidst a bustling city. Enjoy the view of the nearby church and its grand architecture or stare at Coit Tower and decide whether or not today is the day you’ll make the hike to the top.
A trip to North Beach, like a trip to Italy, would not be complete without a taste of espresso. Our favorite spot is Caffe Trieste, the first place to start serving espresso on the West Coast. Since 1956, when Papa Gianni brought espresso to the Bay, Caffe Trieste had been serving artists and poets alike. It was the go-to spot for Beat Generation writers like Allen Ginsburg and is also the place where Francis Ford Coppola wrote a large part of his screenplay for “The Godfather.” Go for a simple espresso shot or a perfectly balanced cappuccino.
City Lights Bookstore
End your day by browsing through paperbacks at one of the most unique independent bookstores in the city. This three-story place notably houses its own publishing company, City Lights Foundation, which published Allen Ginsburg’s “Howl.” Having everything from world literature to progressive texts, you’ll be sure to take something home with you.
With so many options, now you know what a relaxing day you can have in this charming part of the city.