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North Beach Weekender

Wander San Francisco's authentic Italian neighborhood, where cafe tables crowd the sidewalk and Old World pastries and dishes tempt mightily.

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  • City Lights Booksellers & Publishers outside view, North Beach, San Francisco, Calif., image
    Photo credit
    Photo: Caroline Culler/Wikimedia
    Photo caption
    City Lights Booksellers & Publishers has been a North Beach stronghold since 1953.
  • Detail of Coit Tower Depression-era mural, North Beach, San Francisco, Calif., image
    Photo credit
    Photo: Epachamo/Wikimedia
    Photo caption
    Coit Tower houses several Great Depression-era murals, including California by Maxine Albro (detail shown here).
  • Musicans perform at Caffe Trieste in North Beach, San Francisco, Calif., image
    Photo credit
    Photo: Courtesy of Nubifer/Wikipedia
    Photo caption
    North Beach's Caffe Trieste hosts monthly live music performances.

To do and see Beat Museum Learn about the 1950s Beat movement and buy hip souvenirs. 540 Broadway, 399-9626, kerouac.com. Coit Tower An iconic landmark crowns the neighborhood and offers a 360-degree view. The murals inside were created during the Great Depression. Parking is very limited. 1 Telegraph Hill Blvd., 362-0808, sfrecpark.org. Grace Marchant Garden On the eastern side of Telegraph Hill, a little Eden—transformed from a onetime trash site by a saintly gardener—cascades down the Filbert Steps. Steve Silver’s Beach Blanket Babylon A musical revue with wild costumes and outrageous hats follows the adventures of Snow White as she navigates a wacky landscape populated with a changing cast of popular figures, from Lady Gaga to Nancy Pelosi to the Queen of England. Club Fugazi, 678 Green St., 421-4222, beachblanketbabylon.com. Washington Square Park Laze on the wide open lawn that fronts Saints Peter and Paul Church, where Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio posed for their wedding photos. Columbus Avenue at Union Street, sfrecpark.org/destination/washington-square.

SHOPPING Al’s Attire Al Ribaya creates vintage-inspired clothing and shoes. 1300 Grant Ave., 693-9900. Aria This antique shop carries treasures from Europe such as mannequin parts and an array of maps and esoteric prints. 1522 Grant Ave., 433-0219. Biordi Art Imports Pick up brightly colored imported Italian ceramics. 412 Columbus Ave., 392-8096, biordi.com. City Lights Booksellers & Publishers Cofounded by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti in 1953, the spiritual home of the Beats still stocks lots of poetry and fiction. 261 Columbus Ave., 362-8193, citylights.com.

Eats Café Jacqueline In an intimate setting, sample amazing soufflés; start your dinner with a Brie-and-broccoli and end with chocolate. 1454 Grant Ave., 981-5565. Molinari Delicatessen A bona fide Italian deli offers hanging salamis (seven styles made in-house) and five different sausages. For under $10, you can get a North Beach Special sandwich, made with prosciutto, provolone, sun-dried tomatoes, and sweet bell peppers. 373 Columbus Ave., 421-2337, molinarisalame.com. Original Joe’s Dine on dishes like pot roast and sweetbreads. 601 Union St., 775-4877, originaljoessf.com. L’Osteria del Forno Enjoy classic northern Italian–style cooking like roast pork braised in milk. 519 Columbus Ave., 982-1124, losteriadelforno.com. Rose Pistola Order pastas and pizzas, and try the hearty cioppino. 532 Columbus Ave., 399-0499. Victoria Pastry Co. Since 1914, its bakers have concocted Sicilian cakes and pastries.

Sips Caffè Greco Order a coffee and house-made tiramisu at an outdoor table. 423 Columbus Ave., 397-6261. Caffè Trieste Come for the house-blended and -roasted beans; stay for the Saturday afternoon and Thursday night music held monthly. 601 Vallejo St., 392-6739, caffetrieste.com. Vesuvio Opened in 1948, this bar was a Beat hangout. Nurse a drink in an eclectic atmosphere and ruminate about poetic souls. 255 Columbus Ave., 362-3370.

This article was first published in November 2012. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.