Spring Brings Renewal
New Openings In North Beach
By Joe Bonadio
Is there a happier day than the first day of spring? I don’t think so, at least not here in North Beach! The weather has officially turned the corner, and we finally get to bid adieu to the winter, one of our grayest in years. Personally, I’m happy to move my winter duds to the back of the closet and see a little sunshine.
Fittingly, we’ve got some signs of renewal on the business front as well. We’re particularly happy to report some new signs of life on the 500 block of Columbus Avenue, a once-thriving corridor that has been plagued by vacancies in recent years.
First off, it appears that the prime corner location recently vacated by Cafe DeLucchi (and its oh-so-brief replacement Cafe Kona) will soon be occupied by pasta-centric eatery Barzotto. This will be the second outpost for the much-ballyhooed eatery, which will maintain its current location on Valencia Street in the Mission District.
Foodies out there will recall that Barzotto’s opening chef, Michelle Minori, was a competitor on Top Chef, and the recipient of San Francisco Chronicle’s “Rising Star Chef” award in 2017. As at the original location, they’ll be doing casual eat-in with no dedicated servers, and selling fresh pasta out the door, with wines priced at $10/glass. The restaurant has earned high praise for quality product at a fair price, something that always fits in to the neighborhood; expect to see them sometime in the late summer/early fall.
Barzotto will bring some competition to another new arrival, also expected to land later this year, The Italian Homemade Company, which has been making fresh pasta at 716 Columbus since 2014, has reportedly purchased the building which housed the former Caffe Roma. All reports indicate they intend to move their North Beach location to the new spot, which will bring new life to the center of the block. This stretch of Columbus has been quiet too long, and along with Crepes A Go Go, this will be the third new business to open on the north side of the block in the past year.
As an aside, it will be interesting to see three well-regarded local producers making and selling fresh pasta out the door: Barzotto, Italian Homemade, and Tony Gemignani’s Giovanni Italian Specialties (just around the corner at 629 Union) will all be within steps of one another. As a local and avid appreciator of Italian food, I can’t see any problem with that. Isn’t this how North Beach used to be? Let the pasta wars begin!
Meanwhile, all of this activity should make it easier to attract tenants to the block, especially as units undergoing retrofitting work across the street return to the market in coming months. And I don’t want to traffic in rumors, but there is a major restaurant group looking very closely at another parcel on the same block; hopefully there will be more to report on this shortly.
Around the block on Grant Avenue, the people at Adolfo’s Mexican Restaurant appear to have gotten off to a good start in their small, light-filled space. Like myself, North Beach can be pretty picky when it come to burritos; I’ve only visited once and enjoyed what I had, and likewise I’ve heard positive things.
Their business will surely be buoyed by another newcomer, soon to open right across the street: the owner’s of the Grassroots and Barbary Coast cannabis shops are set to open their first North Beach location, right next door to Tupelo. This will be the first dispensary to operate in the neighborhood in over a decade–and it’s frankly about time. (After all, this stretch of Grant Avenue is the actual Barbary Coast.)
More good news: as you may have heard, after being closed for nearly a year by 2018’s disastrous St. Patrick’s Day fire, Coit Liquors is back in business. They’ve opened at 1657 Powell Street, just steps away from their old spot, and the place is looking great. It’s good to see longtime owner Shadi get a dedicated space for the store once again; make sure to stop in and say hello.
For the health-conscious among you, we also have a unique new entry at 775 Filbert Street. The brand-new Green Taste offers a nichey, high-quality selection of vegan goods, including donuts, plant-based milks, coffee and a lot more. Their corner spot (at Mason) is just a little off the beaten path, but they seem to have struck a chord with the locals. That ought to give owners Sergey Karpuhin and Davier Mayes just enough time to figure out how to lure people off the passing cable cars. We wish them luck!
Up the hill, we’ve got another hotly anticipated arrival, this one a long time in coming. After a protracted legal challenge from jittery residents, it appears the long-shuttered Julius’ Castle is headed for a comeback. Originally opened in 1923, the iconic restaurant is perched precariously on the eastern face of Telegraph Hill, and has long been known for its sweeping bay views. Sadly, they’ve been closed since 2008, so droves of the city’s newer residents have never had the opportunity to visit. And among those who have, most I’ve spoken to are ready for a return trip.
Being in the former group, personally I can’t wait to head up the hill to see what all the fuss is about. It will be fascinating to see this small part of North Beach’s collective history reactivated, as if awakened from a long, peaceful nap. It’s just the sort of thing we need to bring more attention to our neighborhood, and its uniquely storied past.
Lastly, we’ve heard some recent rumblings that construction may soon be commencing at 659 Union Street, which was gutted by the tragic St. Patrick’s Day fire just over a year ago. We don’t have anything official yet, but should have more to report soon. Meanwhile, see you in the neighborhood!
Here at the SF NBBA, we work hard to protect North Beach, and to ensure a clean and prosperous environment for our local businesses.