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  • Writer's pictureJefferson Graham

10 amazing Italian Restaurants in San Francisco's North Beach

My favorite place to stay, when in San Francisco, is in North Beach, the Little Italy section of the city, where I always take advantage of local color,. Here it's the real deal: beyond the red and white checkered tablecloths and the smell of pizza and freshly made sauce, you'll hear many people speaking in Italian as well and see the Italian flag proudly displayed on most blocks.

From the steps of the Columbus Inn, my favorite San Francisco hotel, at 1075 Columbus Avenue, I can get you to 10 great Italian restaurants, on a short 8 block walk, or 6/10ths of a mile. As well as one amazing bakery. That is, if you're in the mood for cannoli. (And who isn't?)

For the walk, this is an easy throughline from the Inn to just across Broadway. There are even more great Italian establishments on the side streets.

When you leave the Inn, you'll pass La Rocca's Corner, a classic old-line San Francisco sports bar, the Curry Leaf, for Indian food and 901 Columbus Cafe on the corner of Columbus and Lombard. This is a great place to stop for sandwiches and coffee. Meanwhile, onto Little Italy.

Luisa's Wine Bar Since 1959 (that's the real name)

759 Columbus Avenue

Walk: Three blocks

Fare: "From traditional dishes like spaghetti and fettuccine con pollo to our 5 star meatballs, there's something on the menu for everyone."


727 Columbus Avenue

Walk: Four blocks

Fare: "Authentic Italian restaurant and pizzeria in the heart of North Beach."

Piazza Pellegrini

659 Columbus Ave.

Walk: four blocks away.

Fare: "An elegant casual restaurant with a warm atmosphere...and fresh trattoria food in the heart of North Beach's Little Italy."


Mario's Bohemian Cigar Store Cafe

566 Columbus Ave.

Walk: Five blocks away

Fare: No cigar smoking anymore, just Italian sandwiches, like eggplant, meatball and Prosciutto, as well as pizza. Not open for late dinners.

570 Stockton

Walk: Six blocks

Fare: Often cited as the home of the best pizza in San Francisco, Tony's is very hard to get into; be prepared to wait around awhile. From Tony himself: "A state of the art full service restaurant that offers several styles of pizzas which include Neapolitan, Classic American and Italian, Sicilian, Pizza Romana, Gluten Free and New York, Detroit and St. Louis Style and displays seven different types of pizza ovens."

North Beach Restaurant

1512 Stockton Street

Walk: Six blocks

Fare: Emphasizing the flavors of Tuscany, including antipasta, polenta, prosciutto, risotto and seafood. Pricey.

Original Joe's

601 Union Street

Walk: Six blocks

Fare: "San Francisco institution and over-the-top tourist favorite," says Eater. Serves the classics in plush red booths.

Golden Boy Pizza

542 Green Street

Walk: Seven blocks

Fare: Take-out only, and available by the slice.

Menu: Not posted, but here's what you need to know: Cheese, pepperoni, sausage, veggie, or clams and garlic.


510 Green Street

Walk: Seven blocks

Fare: Motto--"No decaf, no desert, no reservations, no exceptions." The oldest of the North Beach Italian restaurants, at over 100 years, Sodini's took over the old Green Valley Restaurant that originated in the building, back in the 1990s, and it's been that way ever since. Touts "authentic" Italian fare from the Tuscany region.

Molinari's 373 Columbus Avenue

Walk: eight blocks

Fare: An old-school Italian market that happens to produce the best custom-made sandwiches in San Francisco. Be prepared for lots of food. First opened their doors in 1896. A sampling: the Luciano Special with Parma prosciutto, sweet coppa, fresh mozzarella, sun dried tomatoes, onions, and lettuce on grilled focaccia; the Renzo Special Sandwich with prosciutto, coppa, fresh mozzarella, and sun dried tomatoes; and the Molinari Special Italian Combo with salame, mortadella, galantina, zampino, salame cotto, mayo, mustard, Italian vinaigrette, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and pepperoncini.

Mona Lisa, 353 Columbus

Walk: eight blocks

Fare: Classic, small Italian restaurant, with specialties including calamari fritti, minestrone, fettucine alfredo, spaghetti cacio e pepe, lasagna vegetable and spaghetti bologaese.


Mara's Italian Pastry

503 Columbus

Fare: A tiny Italian bakery, the likes of which used to line the neighborhood, home to Tiramisu, cannoli, Napoleons, cheesecakes, eclairs and Italian cookies and of course, gelato.


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