San Francisco’s North Beach

One of my favorite neighborhoods in San Francisco is North Beach. To me it is the most authentic and rich in Italian traditions.   North Beach is also a rare thing – a neighborhood that manages to be a perennial favorite with tourists and also remain beloved to San Franciscans.

All photographs taken by Ashley Urban

North Beach is nestled between the Financial district and Chinatown. It compresses cabarets, jazz clubs, galleries, family style restaurants, and gelato parlors into less than a square mile. There’s no better place in San Francisco to prowl for historic landmarks, sample house-roast espressos, shop and dine on Italian food.

So I’m taking you to visit some of my favorite places in North Beach. I suggest we take a detour off of the main drag of Columbus Avenue, where we will be more likely to run into unexpected treasures of shops, restaurants and spectacular views.

(This is one of my favorite views of Saint Peter and Paul Church, which overlooks Washington Square Park.  It was the site of the Joe Di Maggio and Marilyn Monroe’s wedding)

Our first stop is at Liguria Bakery, which is famous for their focaccia bread.

Actually, focaccia bread is all they sell.  Doesn’t the owner looks like she’s out of  central casting?

I’m taking home the garlic and rosemary focaccia, the perfect Italian bread to serve with dinner or as an antipasta.  Have any of you ever eaten at Mama’s, the restaurant  behind me?  It must be good because they’re is always such a long line to get in.

Our next stop is  Hole in the Wall Coffee.

As you can see, it is a hole in a wall, though one that offers wi-fi, daily Tai Chi lessons and plenty of seating.

Let’s order some Pookie cold brew shots, which I’ve been told tastes a little like Christmas would if it had a flavor!

After being fueled by the expresso, this is the perfect place to sit and watch the world go by.

North Beach is known for its many painted murals. In honor of my Charlotte and Olympia lip shoes, I can’t resist posing in front of this one.

Lola’s is the best shop  to pick out the perfect greeting card and unusual hostess and children gifts.

A visit to North Beach would not be complete without enjoying a sit down meal.  L’Osteria De Forno serves traditional Italian food.  It’s also the ideal spot to take in all the hustle bustle of Columbus Avenue. Where do you like to dine in North Beach?  I’m always looking for good recommendations.

We tucked into classic burrata and arrugala salad.

sage and ricotta ravioli

and salad with shrimp.

Of course, the meal wouldn’t have been complete without ordering blood orange and rose favored gelato from Gelato Naia.  They are the only gelato shop in North Beach that still makes their own Italian ice cream.

Soggiorno bene fino alla nostra prossima riunione!


Tag along as I share musings on everything from family to business, which will hopefully inspire you and stir the mind. I am happy that you are along for the journey. Here’s to Living Lively!


  • A Belle Dames member
    June 21, 2017 at 5:03 pm

    Thanks for introducing me to totally new places that I had never heard of before. I lived in the suburbs to long. We will use your fantastic list for Santa Baraba once again in a few weeks!

  • Lou Ann
    June 22, 2017 at 12:37 am

    I went to Mama’s decades for breakfast. It was so popular then, and I had no idea it was still around. L’Osteria looks delicious – love burrata, and gelato always!

  • Jan
    June 22, 2017 at 4:30 pm

    Enjoyed your suggestions for the North Beach neighborhood, and loved your striped jacket!
    Breaking culinary news from Santa Barbara for summer visitors – sadly the very beloved beach breakfast hang-out of locals and visitors alike for more than 33 years – the East Beach Grill will be closing its doors forever in December. Located on the first floor of the Cabrillo Pavilion Bathhouse – originally built in 1926 by millionaire philanthropist David Gray of Ford Motor fame, the Grill has lost its lease with the City. The City wants to replace it with a ” high-end, hip, and high -class restaurant” in hopes of increasing its revenues. A very sad day indeed for Santa Barbara locals! So, if you are in town this summer, stop by for one last stack of the world’s best blueberry pancakes.

    June 22, 2017 at 4:38 pm

    OH MY MAMA’s is still there…………………THAT was a HOT SPOT In the 70’s!I lived around the corner and up the hill by COIT TOWER!THank you for taking me down memory lane!

  • Jennifer
    June 23, 2017 at 1:01 am

    That’s so wonderful that you lived around the corner for Mama’s. I didn’t know that it’s going strong after all those years. XX

  • Jennifer
    June 23, 2017 at 1:02 am

    Noooooooo! I can’t believe that after 33 years East Beach Grill is closing its doors! We’ll have to order a stack of blueberry pancakes this summer. Such happy memories of being able to have breakfast right on the beach. XX

  • Jennifer
    June 23, 2017 at 1:04 am

    I’m glad to hear that you had breakfast at Mama’s decades ago. I’ve always avoided going because of the long lines! Maybe I should give it a try. A Very Happy Birthday to you!

  • Jennifer
    June 23, 2017 at 1:06 am

    I’m so happy that some of my suggestions helped! You are fortunate to return to Santa Barbara in a few weeks. Enjoy your trip! xxx

  • Mary Toboni
    August 8, 2017 at 12:03 am

    It’s so fun to read all of your blogs! It temporarily brings you away for a few minutes. Please continue…it is such a treat to step into another place and time. You have a wonderful talent of bringing us to a different time and place be it in the kitchen, a neighborhood or some far off location! Keep up the great work!

  • Diana Amato
    January 24, 2018 at 1:49 am

    What a Wonderful Tour of such an Incredible Neighborhood! I was fortunate enough to live in North Beach over 15 years ago. I lived on Green Street in a 100+ Year old Home. There was a view of the Golden Gate Bridge through the distortion of very old windows. It was Magical. I remember going to Molinari Deli and picking up everything we needed for rooftop picnics. And yes! Mama’s was and IS worth the wait! I try to get back there every year….
    Beautiful post of a very Unique slice of Life!
    Thank you.