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Tour of North Beach
If GraceAnn Walden's email address (firstname.lastname@example.org) is any indication of the type of tour she leads through North Beach, you'll know that the trip will prove to be a delicious delight. My girlfriend Sally, my daughter Jennifer, and I arrived at 10:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning outside the Bank of America in North Beach. GraceAnn welcomed us warmly and began what would be a very entertaining stream of consciousness about the history, sites, people, and food of North Beach. Along with such information, GraceAnn provided the group with the "inside scoop" (her column for the Chronicle under the same name) on the best of
everything, including the best pasta (De Cecco), the best olive oil (TenutA Numero Uno), and cookies at Danilo Bakery.
The tour began at Cavelli's Books with a look at magazines, books, and kitchen gadgets of Italian origin. I found a novel gizmo-an electric machine which peels and seeds tomatoes for tomato sauce.We then proceeded to O'Reilly's where we were treated to some strong ale and Irish soda bread. GraceAnn introduced us to O'Reilly's Irish wolfhound, Foinn, who stands larger than most ponies and is fond of buttered soda bread.
Crossing the street we entered Rose Pistola, a chic, upscale restaurant owned by Reed Hearon. There is an open grill and pizza oven in the center of the restaurant. We were treated to two delicate perfectly stuffed focaccia -- one with chantrelles and the other with squash blossoms, between thin layers of dough, both enlivened with creamy Crecensa cheese. Moving from the pizza oven to the bread oven, we climbed a small hill to the Italian French Bakery. Here, thousands of loaves of bread are baked daily. The aroma that filled the room was warm and flavorful; the bread was the same. We also visited Prudent, a 90 year old deli-meat market, where the owners make their own Coteghino sausage, italian sausages, mascarpone torta and dry jack cheese. Our group sampled the jack and the torta on crackers. Next, we filed into the church of St. Francis of Assisi, a small, ornately decorated church with a long history in North Beach.
St. Francis is the city's shrine to our patron saint and a gathering place for art exhibits and classical concerts. Biordi's, a store that imports Majolica and other pottery from italy had items from a few dollars to impressive pieces for several hundred dollars. Our tour ended with a multi-course lunch at Enrico's. The original owner was a force during the beat era, and once owned the hungry I, where he launched the careers of Barbra Streisand, Bill Cosby and others. Today, a couple from the eastbay have owned it for 6 years and present jazz every night and delicious dishes like the smoked salmon bruschetta, polenta fries, wild mushroom pizzas and luscious desserts. Their pastry chef, Mary Jo Thoresen, and her recipes were featured in Bon Appetit magazine in ASugust 1998. On Graceann's tour we learned a lot about this vibrant and colorful neighborhood and we enjoyed many new and delicious tastes.
"Mangia! North Beach"
Tours given most Saturdays (and weekdays for groups of 12 or more by prior arrangement).
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Grand Tour Company
334 1/2 Union St.
San Francisco., CA