It’s hard to find the time to walk through all the history in San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood. Just as much time would be needed to extoll the virtues of each and every wonderful restaurant, cafe, bar, and cannoli dealer on Columbus Avenue, Green Street, and Broadway. There are coffee classics including Hole in the Wall’s hollowed-out coconut shells and the revamped Beacon Coffee. There are iconic institutions such as the temporarily closed Liguria Bakery, Mara’s Italian Pastries, and Molinari Delicatessen. Newcomers like Bodega and Hilda and Jesse make cases for what some call the neighborhood’s renaissance, too. These 17 businesses offer a taste of what makes the area so special, and each and each one is worth adding to your list.Read More
17 Excellent North Beach Restaurants and Bars
San Francisco’s famously Italian neighborhood has a lot more than just pizza and pasta
Kennedy's Indian Curry House & Irish Pub
Irish pubs and Indian curry houses collide infrequently, to say the least, but it’s a testament to San Francisco’s iconoclastic nature that one such combination has lasted more than 30 years in a famously Italian neighborhood. Fish and chips here are just $9.99, and the chicken pakora goes for just $7.99.
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.
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. Persevere through it all and you’ll be rewarded.
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. 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. Gemignani even spearheaded a pizza, beer, and bagel festival, which debuted August 2023.
The Savoy Tivoli
This destination for live music and stiff drinks opened in 1907, beginning a storied history punctuated with landmark events like debuting San Francisco’s Beach Blanket Babylon in 1974 and appearances by the Ramones in 1976. The venue reopened after a few years of closure in 2022 and is packed with cocktails and crowds once again, hosting local musical acts such as the Tuesday People on the regular.
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. The meatball is legendary, but the eggplant sandwiches (both breaded and grilled) are worth a taste. 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.
Flour + Water Pizzeria
One of San Francisco’s favorite pasta destinations branched out with a titanic pizza parlor in the city’s Italian restaurant proving grounds. In June 2023 the Flour + Water group satisfied its fans’ demands — 13 months after closing its Valencia Street restaurant — by throwing open the doors to a massive Columbus Avenue location. While a full-service restaurant, there’s also a Pizza Shop for takeout and casual service on the Stockton Street side, and a dough room showcasing the behind-the-scenes action of making those smoky eggplant pies.
Hilda and Jesse
The legendary brunch spot of the North Beach neighborhood is Mama’s, perched just off the park. But if you don’t want to bear the long line know that on the other side of Columbus, retro-fabulous restaurant Hilda and Jesse serves a playful three-course brunch. There’s an option to add on items like a plate of Latvian pancakes, plus a thoughtful list of wines. Dinner is also served Monday, Thursday, and Friday nights.
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.
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.
North Beach Restaurant
The gold and white facade of this Stockton Street restaurant gives one a sense of the immense gravity of the business itself. And the service and food match the highfalutin’ clientele, including Nancy Pelosi, Willie Brown, and the Moscone family, one of whom considers the calamari and veal scallopini alla Gina some of the best Italian food in the city.
Golden Boy Pizza
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.
After 10 years in the Outer Richmond, this well-loved restaurant relocated to a prime location just off Columbus Avenue in late 2022. Owners Yuka Ioroi and Kris Toliao are about as well-known for their commitment to equal wages and fair working conditions for staff as they are for the restaurant’s affordable California cuisine, available a la carte or as a 5-course tasting menu for dinner. Look for entrees such as housemade rigatoni, slow-braised lamb belly, and albacore with squid ink-onion soubise.
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.
Sam’s Pizza & Burgers
Tiptoeing into North Beach, or so the city’s own neighborhood map database would have you believe, this longtime late-night destination remains a powerhouse decades into its tenure on Broadway. The burger here is the main attraction, and it’s on the menu past midnight.
The 101-year-old Tosca Cafe, the historic Italian-American restaurant and bar in North Beach, reopened for indoor dining in May 2021 with a dinner menu starring Tuscan fried chicken, kale pesto pappardelle, 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.
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.