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Paulette Baker, a longtime regular of Caffe Trieste, sips an Americano espresso in front of the venerable North Beach institution in San Francisco, Calif. on Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017. Photo by Paul Chinn/San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

21 Excellent North Beach Restaurants and Bars

San Francisco’s famously Italian neighborhood has a lot more than just pizza and pasts spots

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Everyone in San Francisco knows North Beach. Maybe you’ve browsed in City Lights before a memorable dinner at the Stinking Rose with family visiting from out of town. Maybe you melt into the crowds in the raucous bars on Grant Avenue on Saturday nights.

But there’s another side to North Beach, one dripping with history and full of locals who have been in the neighborhood since putting down roots decades back. One that still feels like one of the most magical parts of the city — summer tourist hordes aside. If you know where to look, it’s easy to see how so many have fallen in love with this charming neighborhood and its many dining gems. So pull up a chair at a sideway bistro table and get ready to explore the best North Beach has to offer.

Health experts consider dining out to be a high-risk activity for the unvaccinated; it may pose a risk for the vaccinated, especially in areas with substantial COVID transmission.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.
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The Italian Homemade Company

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Imagine your Italian grandmother set up shop on Columbus Avenue, but with an eye for 21st-century aesthetics. That’s the Italian Homemade Company, a bright-but-cozy storefront specializing in gourmet Italian goods, plus prepared food to take away or eat at a table by the window with some wine. Choices include consistently excellent fresh pasta — pick your type (pappardelle, gnocchi, ravioli, etc.) and your sauce (butter and sage, bolognese, and more) — giant slabs of lasagna, and piadina, a pliant, yeast-free flatbread filled with salty cold cuts and cheese.

The Italian Homemade Company

Liguria Bakery

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Arrive early to get the goods at Liguria, a 106-year-old San Francisco institution. The family-run bakery specializes in focaccia, and the massive sheets of bread, studded with everything from raisins to olives are a wonder of airy, pillowy bread and olive oil richness (the green onion version is what makes the sandwiches at Mario’s so excellent). Grab a piece or 10 to take across the street from the park, or buy it frozen to finish at home.

You’ll find lines down the block daily at Mama’s, a legendary brunch spot with an epic wait time to match. The corner restaurant has been keeping the neighborhood fed since the late ’60s, and the giant omelets, loaded Benedicts, and over-the-top French toast speak to years of practice. Stop by on a weekday if you can — breakfast is served all day and you’ll likely sneak in without too long of a wait. Regardless, be sure to visit the Bake Shop, where freshly baked loaf cakes, homemade jam, and other sweets are available to go.

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Bodega North Beach

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While North Beach is best known for its many old-school restaurants and bars, Bodega is a new-school wine lover’s dream with a robust list of options by the glass and a respectable list of plates to pair including tacos, a burger, and grilled cheese. There are plenty of funky natural wines for fans to explore and the enticing descriptions make it easy to choose even if you don’t know a pet-nat from a petit verdot. Pull up a stool to a community table or the bar and make a game of observing the many dates undoubtedly taking place around the intimate interior. 

Victoria Pastry

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Sugar rushes are inevitable at Victoria Pastry, a pusher of the sweet stuff since 1914. Sample classics like tiramisu and cannoli, or go big with slices of rich layer cakes. This classic bakery is known for Easter egg-hued princess cake layered with raspberry, whipped cream, custard, and triple sec. But don’t skip the fedora — the dense chocolate cake is loaded with chocolate cream and rum. There are a couple of tables outside, but these sweets are best enjoyed with a coffee in the park.

Little Vine

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A pocket-sized shop on the quieter end of Grant Avenue, Little Vine has everything you want and nothing you don’t. A thoughtful selection of cheese, charcuterie, bread, jams, and sweets have the makings of a perfect picnic, with a stellar array of wines and beers to pair with them. The shop also offers a daily changing sandwich during lunch hours, with combinations like Zoe’s pastrami and McVicker’s pickles and La Querica prosciutto, fresh burrata, and quince jam. They host regular wine tastings, too, on Thursday nights should you need more reasons to stop by.

Lauren Saria

Cafe Jacqueline

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You’ll feel like you took a step back in time when you cross the threshold into this petit Michelin-recommended French restaurant. This gem is about as antiquated as a restaurant can be: no website, reservations by phone only, and a service that’s more assertive than warm. Perservere through it all and you’ll be rewarded, however. Impossibly airy soufflés in sweet and savory varieties make up the whole menu and mean your meal will undoubtedly take a cool couple of hours from start to finish.

Tony's Pizza Napoletana

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Tony Gemignani’s pizza empire stretches far beyond North Beach, but its heart and soul remains in the neighborhood. Tony’s Pizza Napoletana packs in the crowds, and with good reason — the extensive menu reads like a crash course in regional pizza styles and history. The limited Napoletana-style margherita is worth the wait, as is the butter-edged Detroit-style square pie. Next door, the Slice House slings wedges of coal-fired New York and Connecticut-style pies plus Chicago-style Italian beef sandwiches. Down the street, Capo’s is all about the gut-busting, Chicago-style fare. In brief: When it comes to pizza and its accompaniments, it’s hard to go wrong with any of Gemignani’s restaurants.

Tony’s Pizza Napoletana

Mario's Bohemian Cigar Store Cafe

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There are no cigars to be found at this corner cafe, but hot, melty sandwiches on pillowy focaccia abound. A bonafide local joint in the midst of Columbus Avenue’s touristy glut, Mario’s is the kind of place that makes you feel like a regular and inspires you to become one. Skip straight to the focaccia sandwich section of the menu, though the hot, baked dishes like lasagna and cannelloni aren’t half bad. They’re made using olive oil-rich focaccia from Liguria Bakery, just across the park. The meatball is legendary, but the eggplant sandwiches (both breaded and grilled) are worth a taste.

Il Pollaio

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Blink and you’ll miss this no-frills, neighborhood staple on Columbus. Il Pollaio, as the name suggests, specializes in chicken — specifically, juicy, crispy-skinned grilled chicken, available by the half or whole bird. It’s easy to make a meal of chicken alone, but grilled vegetable sides are worth an order, and the French fries are great for soaking up savory chicken drippings. Give the lamb chops or the half rabbit a try if you’re feeling particularly carnivorous.

Red Window

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It’s always sunny at Red Window, the pie-shaped tapas restaurant and bar overlooking the busy intersection of Columbus and Stockton streets. Travel to Spain via food and drink with plates of pintxos like bacalao croquetas and crostini with tuna conserva and a low-proof cocktail or sangria. The brightly colored dining room is cozy day and night and the parklet makes an ideal setting for brunch, served Friday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. 

Sotto Mare

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Gigi Fiorucci may no longer hold court at Sotto Mare, but this Green Street seafood restaurant is still one of the finest places in the land for fresh oysters, Louie salads, and sloppy bowls of cioppino, bib absolutely required. Make a reservation or prepare to wait at this boisterous neighborhood staple — current owners Rich and Laura Azzolino have kept the space exactly the same, including walls laden with celebrity photos and nautical-themed kitsch. The menu is similarly unchanged and centers around daily fresh catches and San Francisco seafood classics. The aforementioned oysters and cioppino are musts, and the buttery scallops and petrale sole are excellent, too, when available. Be sure to save some of your sourdough bread for sopping up the accompanying sauces and cioppino broth.

Cioppino at Sotto Mare Sotto Mare

Golden Boy Pizza

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This North Beach institution has been serving Sicilian-style pizza since 1978. Bring cash, wait out the line, and order a hefty square of pizza to enjoy at the bar. A couple of plain cheese slices make for an inexpensive and fairly unimpeachable lunch. The version topped with a ton of chopped garlic and clams? It might very well make your entire week.

Hi-Way Burger & Fry

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If you want a more classic burger experience in the area, head to Sam’s Burgers, that itty bitty joint beloved by true San Franciscans and the late great Anthony Bourdain. But if you’re looking for a dining option to please even the pickiest of eaters, this second outpost of Hi-Way Burger & Fry delivers. The 100% grass-fed beef burgers demand respect and the menu also spans chicken, sandwiches, hot dogs, salads, sides, and shakes. It’s affordable by Bay Area standards, too, with pretty much everything coming in under $10.

Hi-Way Burger & Fry

Caffe Trieste

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As North Beach staples go, Trieste is almost unbeatable — the storied corner cafe claims to have been the very first Italian-style espresso house on the West Coast when it opened in 1956. Its timing was fortuitous; Trieste became a gathering place for poets, artists, musicians, and the Beat scene at large. Grab a cappuccino and get working on your next novel. You’ll be in good company — Francis Ford Coppola reputedly wrote the script for The Godfather here, and still sometimes frequents the cafe. Stop by on Saturday afternoons for live music.

Patrons enjoy espresso drinks at Caffe Trieste below a mural and a wall of framed photos of famous previous guests of the North Beach institution in San Francisco, Calif. on Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017. Photo by Paul Chinn/San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

Molinari Delicatessen

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Satiate your cravings for loaded Italian sandwiches at Molinari, a temple of cured meats, cheeses, and olive oil–soaked condiments. The old-school deli is a prime spot to load up for a Washington Square Park picnic. Grab a number, pick your bread, and watch the sandwich magic happen. It’s hard to go wrong with the Renzo Special, a loaded combo of prosciutto, coppa (hot or not), milky fresh mozzarella, and sweet sun-dried tomatoes, though some swear by the chicken parmesan and the grilled focaccia sandwiches. They’ve got fresh pasta on offer, too, along with pre-made lasagna and eggplant parmesan to cook up at home.

Juan Carnejo (left) and Vince Balistreri serve customers during the busy lunch hour at Molinari Delicatessen in the North Beach neighborhood of San Francisco, Calif. on Thursday, Dec. 12, 2013. Photo by Paul Chinn/San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

Il Casaro Pizzeria

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One of the newer entries in the North Beach pizza scene, Il Casaro has become a favorite thanks to the airy-crusted, leopard-spotted Neapolitan-style pizzas, bright space, and focus on creamy fresh mozzarella (il casaro means “the cheesemaker”). The pizzas are a must-order, of course — the eponymous Il Casaro with grana padano, mozzarella, mushrooms, and prosciutto is excellent, as is the classic margherita — but it’s worth saving room for antipasti like roasted cauliflower with garlic, capers, and Calabrian chile, and fried “Cibo de Strata” or street food, like fried fior di latte mozzarella and potato croquettes stuffed with ’nduja.

El Farolito

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When it comes to late-night dining options in North Beach you really can’t do better than El Farolito, the Mission District taqueria institution with a growing number of outposts across the city and broader Bay Area. Order a fat Mission burrito filled with cheese, rice, beans, sour cream, salsa, avocado, and either carne asada or al pastor. It’s a no-frills dining room, but you can grab a seat and stuff yourself under the glow of those fluorescent lights or take your food to go.

The exterior of El Farolito in North Beach. Santiago Lopez

15 Romolo

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As alleyway bars go, 15 Romolo sets a nearly unbeatable gold standard. The former Basque Hotel still churns out some of the greatest cocktails in the city, with knockout food offerings to match. It’s wise to keep it straightforward with Pimms Cup and a burger, or dig deeper into the bar’s excellent sherry offerings and menu featuring plates like Bacalao croquettas and a pickled brined chicken sandwich. The cozy, low-lit space is easily one of the sexier date night spots out there. A real-deal jukebox and a photobooth don’t hurt things, either.

Tosca Cafe

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101 year-old Tosca Cafe, the historic Italian-American restaurant and bar in North Beach, reopened in November 2020 with a dinner menu starring Tuscan fried chicken, kale pesto parpardelle, and of course, its famous “house cappuccino.” Known for its century-old bar and classic back room, Tosca now boasts a heated parklet outside, perfect for oysters and spritzes.

Vesuvio Cafe

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Channel your inner Beatnik and throw back a few at Vesuvio, a two-level bar that’s been slinging drinks since 1948. Kerouac himself was known to spend considerable time at Vesuvio (and missed meeting with Henry Miller because of it, so they say), and the bar maintains its no-frills charm when it’s not slammed with tourists. Vesuvio is best on weeknights — grab a table in the upstairs window and let your poetic inclinations take over.

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The Italian Homemade Company

The Italian Homemade Company

Imagine your Italian grandmother set up shop on Columbus Avenue, but with an eye for 21st-century aesthetics. That’s the Italian Homemade Company, a bright-but-cozy storefront specializing in gourmet Italian goods, plus prepared food to take away or eat at a table by the window with some wine. Choices include consistently excellent fresh pasta — pick your type (pappardelle, gnocchi, ravioli, etc.) and your sauce (butter and sage, bolognese, and more) — giant slabs of lasagna, and piadina, a pliant, yeast-free flatbread filled with salty cold cuts and cheese.

The Italian Homemade Company

Liguria Bakery

Arrive early to get the goods at Liguria, a 106-year-old San Francisco institution. The family-run bakery specializes in focaccia, and the massive sheets of bread, studded with everything from raisins to olives are a wonder of airy, pillowy bread and olive oil richness (the green onion version is what makes the sandwiches at Mario’s so excellent). Grab a piece or 10 to take across the street from the park, or buy it frozen to finish at home.

Mama's

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You’ll find lines down the block daily at Mama’s, a legendary brunch spot with an epic wait time to match. The corner restaurant has been keeping the neighborhood fed since the late ’60s, and the giant omelets, loaded Benedicts, and over-the-top French toast speak to years of practice. Stop by on a weekday if you can — breakfast is served all day and you’ll likely sneak in without too long of a wait. Regardless, be sure to visit the Bake Shop, where freshly baked loaf cakes, homemade jam, and other sweets are available to go.

Eater Archives

Bodega North Beach

While North Beach is best known for its many old-school restaurants and bars, Bodega is a new-school wine lover’s dream with a robust list of options by the glass and a respectable list of plates to pair including tacos, a burger, and grilled cheese. There are plenty of funky natural wines for fans to explore and the enticing descriptions make it easy to choose even if you don’t know a pet-nat from a petit verdot. Pull up a stool to a community table or the bar and make a game of observing the many dates undoubtedly taking place around the intimate interior. 

Victoria Pastry

Sugar rushes are inevitable at Victoria Pastry, a pusher of the sweet stuff since 1914. Sample classics like tiramisu and cannoli, or go big with slices of rich layer cakes. This classic bakery is known for Easter egg-hued princess cake layered with raspberry, whipped cream, custard, and triple sec. But don’t skip the fedora — the dense chocolate cake is loaded with chocolate cream and rum. There are a couple of tables outside, but these sweets are best enjoyed with a coffee in the park.

Little Vine

Lauren Saria

A pocket-sized shop on the quieter end of Grant Avenue, Little Vine has everything you want and nothing you don’t. A thoughtful selection of cheese, charcuterie, bread, jams, and sweets have the makings of a perfect picnic, with a stellar array of wines and beers to pair with them. The shop also offers a daily changing sandwich during lunch hours, with combinations like Zoe’s pastrami and McVicker’s pickles and La Querica prosciutto, fresh burrata, and quince jam. They host regular wine tastings, too, on Thursday nights should you need more reasons to stop by.

Lauren Saria

Cafe Jacqueline

You’ll feel like you took a step back in time when you cross the threshold into this petit Michelin-recommended French restaurant. This gem is about as antiquated as a restaurant can be: no website, reservations by phone only, and a service that’s more assertive than warm. Perservere through it all and you’ll be rewarded, however. Impossibly airy soufflés in sweet and savory varieties make up the whole menu and mean your meal will undoubtedly take a cool couple of hours from start to finish.

Tony's Pizza Napoletana

Tony’s Pizza Napoletana

Tony Gemignani’s pizza empire stretches far beyond North Beach, but its heart and soul remains in the neighborhood. Tony’s Pizza Napoletana packs in the crowds, and with good reason — the extensive menu reads like a crash course in regional pizza styles and history. The limited Napoletana-style margherita is worth the wait, as is the butter-edged Detroit-style square pie. Next door, the Slice House slings wedges of coal-fired New York and Connecticut-style pies plus Chicago-style Italian beef sandwiches. Down the street, Capo’s is all about the gut-busting, Chicago-style fare. In brief: When it comes to pizza and its accompaniments, it’s hard to go wrong with any of Gemignani’s restaurants.

Tony’s Pizza Napoletana

Mario's Bohemian Cigar Store Cafe

There are no cigars to be found at this corner cafe, but hot, melty sandwiches on pillowy focaccia abound. A bonafide local joint in the midst of Columbus Avenue’s touristy glut, Mario’s is the kind of place that makes you feel like a regular and inspires you to become one. Skip straight to the focaccia sandwich section of the menu, though the hot, baked dishes like lasagna and cannelloni aren’t half bad. They’re made using olive oil-rich focaccia from Liguria Bakery, just across the park. The meatball is legendary, but the eggplant sandwiches (both breaded and grilled) are worth a taste.

Il Pollaio

Blink and you’ll miss this no-frills, neighborhood staple on Columbus. Il Pollaio, as the name suggests, specializes in chicken — specifically, juicy, crispy-skinned grilled chicken, available by the half or whole bird. It’s easy to make a meal of chicken alone, but grilled vegetable sides are worth an order, and the French fries are great for soaking up savory chicken drippings. Give the lamb chops or the half rabbit a try if you’re feeling particularly carnivorous.

Red Window

It’s always sunny at Red Window, the pie-shaped tapas restaurant and bar overlooking the busy intersection of Columbus and Stockton streets. Travel to Spain via food and drink with plates of pintxos like bacalao croquetas and crostini with tuna conserva and a low-proof cocktail or sangria. The brightly colored dining room is cozy day and night and the parklet makes an ideal setting for brunch, served Friday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. 

Sotto Mare

Cioppino at Sotto Mare Sotto Mare

Gigi Fiorucci may no longer hold court at Sotto Mare, but this Green Street seafood restaurant is still one of the finest places in the land for fresh oysters, Louie salads, and sloppy bowls of cioppino, bib absolutely required. Make a reservation or prepare to wait at this boisterous neighborhood staple — current owners Rich and Laura Azzolino have kept the space exactly the same, including walls laden with celebrity photos and nautical-themed kitsch. The menu is similarly unchanged and centers around daily fresh catches and San Francisco seafood classics. The aforementioned oysters and cioppino are musts, and the buttery scallops and petrale sole are excellent, too, when available. Be sure to save some of your sourdough bread for sopping up the accompanying sauces and cioppino broth.

Cioppino at Sotto Mare Sotto Mare

Golden Boy Pizza