“San Francisco, Here I Come…”
This past week, we were again in San Francisco and this time ’round, I wanted to focus on some of the places from my, and my parents’, past.
The first night we walked from our inn on Union Street to North Beach…
…up Russian Hill to a park named after the poet George Sterling whose poem “The Cool Grey City of Love” inspired the title of a wonderful book about San Francisco,
…down curvy Lombard Street,
…over to St. Peter and Paul’s Church, where my parents met and ultimately married,
…through adjacent Washington Square where we sat for a bit trying to decide where to eat.
The answer was right there, facing us on the corner: Original Joe’s (originaljoes.com). I remember my parents and I sitting at the counter of the restaurant in its first location on Taylor Street, eating Joe’s Special, one of the restaurant’s signature dishes of egg, spinach, and beef. That original restaurant, destroyed in a 2007 fire, was reconfigured in its new location on Washington Square by the same family in 2012.
Original Joe’s is a very lively place, with many, varied dining areas, including a counter, with some of the original counter chairs, overlooking the kitchen. The waiters are all dressed in tuxes, white shirts, and bow ties and the food is Italian-American, plentiful and tasty. I had enough Spaghetti alla Carbonara to last three days, and John’s special oxtail and short rib gnocchi was a hit and disappeared quickly. Highlight of the evening? Seeing a famous San Francisco sports “legend,” as our waiter called him, eating in the booth right next to us. Let’s hear it for San Francisco serendipity!
The next day we again went to North Beach but this time from downtown where we boarded a cable car (woo-hoo!) at Powell and Market. Our destination was another Italian restaurant–Fior d’Italia, (fior.com), which has been in existence since 1886 and where my parents had their wedding reception long ago when the restaurant was in one of its many previous locations. (The current restaurant is adjacent to the San Remo Hotel, sanremohotel.com, a quirky and quaint hotel built by Bank of America founder A.P. Giannini after the 1906 earthquake.)
We met some special friends there. The husband was like a son to my parents. He and I each ordered a Manhattan, my parents’ favorite cocktail, and enjoyed toasting my parents and reminiscing about them before ordering dinner.
Fior d’Italia is one of my favorite restaurants because it features many dishes from my youth, and their prices are very fair. My Insalata di Cesare and Risotto Venere con Calamari e Vongole (black rice braised with fish stock, calamari and clams) were superb and I also got tastes of my husband’s delicious Lasagne Bolognese al Forno. Our leisurely four-hour meal outlasted even the North Beach Rhythm Jazz Band, which had been playing when we arrived.
Mom and Dad, mille grazie for life. And San Francisco–“…right back where I started from”– thank you for so many warm memories, then and now.