One of my favorite things to do when I visit a city is to go on an organized food tour. I find this to be a great way to explore an unknown city, get to know a particular neighborhood and become immersed in the culture of the locals. I had the opportunity to join the Local Tastes of the City Tour in the North Beach neighborhood of San Francisco. North Beach is also known as Little Italy and has historically been home to a large population of Italian Americans.
We met our tour guide, Tom, at the corner of Union Street and Columbus Avenue to start our tour. Tom is one of the founders of this tour company and grew up in the North Beach neighborhood. He walked us over to our first stop, Caffe Roma, a local coffee roaster that still roasts their beans in-store daily. The shop was founded nearly 30 years ago and has been run by three generations of Italians. I am not sure if I have ever had a freshly roasted cup of coffee, but my cappuccino was absolutely amazing.
Our next stop was Mario’s Bohemian Cigar Store Cafe where we tried one of their famous, oven baked focaccia sandwiches. Our sample included roasted chicken, dijon mustard, pepper jack cheese and onions. I’d go back for seconds!
We then took a stroll across the street over to Stella Pastry & Cafe for cannoli. This shop has been in business since 1942 and offers a wide selection of Italian pastries and cakes. As I was drooling over the display case of cookies and cakes a fresh cannoli showed up in front of me. They make their shells and filling fresh daily and they don’t fill the shell until it’s ready to be served. This keeps the shell from getting soggy. I’ve had my share of cannoli in my life but this was definitely one of the best I have ever tried.
We walked back up the street to Molinari Delicatessen, a deli that has been in the North Beach since 1896. The shop has been in the family for over 100 years and they make some of the best salami sold nationwide. We enjoyed a bite of their focaccia sandwich layered with their fresh salami and fresh mozzarella. At this point I was getting pretty full but it was too delicious to pass up.
We switched from salty to sweet as we head across the street to Z. Cioccolato for some homemade fudge. They feature a layered fudge that scored them a spot on the Cooking Channel’s ‘Unique Sweets’ show and were also ranked 18th best fudge on MSN’s top 25 list. Their fudge is made in small batches, only 6 pounds at a time, and comes in flavors like California Earthquake and Cheesecake Brownie.
We moved from fudge to our final spot: pizza at Il Casaro Pizzeria and Mozzarella Bar. The shop features a wood fired oven for baking their pizzas make with a light, airy crust. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to eat anything more but how can you pass up a fresh pizza? Which, by the way, was delicious. The overall ambiance of the restaurant was casual and inviting and I highly recommend checking it out while you’re in town.
Overall, the food tour with Local Tastes of the City was a great experience and a good way to get to know one of San Francisco’s famous neighborhood. Tom was knowledgable guide that knows the neighborhood and knows good food. Check them out while you’re in San Francisco!