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8 Things You Need to Do in North Beach, San Francisco’s Little Italy

When you're traveling to San Fransisco, you must visit the North Beach neighborhood—also known as "Little Italy."

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San Francisco, California, USA - 11th of November 2012: Corner Cafe in Little Italy; Shutterstock ID 1010019055; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): Taste of HomeLukas Bischoff Photograph/Shutterstock

Nestled between Fisherman’s Wharf and Chinatown is a neighborhood known as North Beach. The neighborhood is San Francisco’s “Little Italy,” packed with legendary pizzerias, cafes and gelato shops.

You’ll know it’s the right neighborhood when you see light poles painted with the Italian flag!

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Focaccia bread; Shutterstock ID 99195527; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): Taste of HomeAlexander Demyanenko/Shutterstock

Arrive Early for Focaccia at Liguria Bakery

Liguria Bakery stands directly across Washington Square Park. The building was once a church, but in 1911, Ambrogio Soracco, along with his two brothers, emigrated from Italy to San Francisco and opened a bakery. By 1950, they began specializing in focaccia bread. (Learn how to make it like a pro here.)

You’ll have to arrive early if you want a taste, though. I recommend arriving by noon because once the bread is sold out, the bakers lock up and head home.

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Washington Square Park in North Beach, San FranciscoJustin Sullivan/Staff/Getty Images Entertainment

Picnic at Washington Square Park

Washington Square Park, one of the oldest parks in San Fransisco, is neither square nor devoted to George Washington. But it’s the heart of Little Italy and hosts many of the neighborhood’s annual festivals, like the Italian Heritage Festival in October. Look for a statue of Benjamin Franklin that was originally donated in 1879 as a temperance fountain. Back in the day, this type of fountain was erected to encourage citizens to drink water instead of imbibing at the local saloon.

Relax with snacks from a local shop—or bring along a picnic basket.

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Stop by XOX Truffles for a Treat

Look for the blue and green awning associated with the famous XOX Truffles. The shop is owned by a French chocolatier who takes his work very seriously. It’s evident in every chocolate produced. You do not want to leave San Fransisco without trying one of these desserts! I recommend ordering a coffee because you’ll get a truffle on the house.

Not ready to go on the road? These easy truffle recipes might help satisfy your sweet tooth.

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Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill in San Francisco; Shutterstock ID 467255426; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): Taste of HomeDarryl Brooks/Shutterstock

Visit Coit Tower (and Reward Yourself With Dessert)

Coit Tower is perched atop Telegraph Hill. You can’t miss it—the 210-foot slender building is a giant among its neighbors. The landmark was named after its wealthy benefactor, Lillie Hitchcock Coit, who donated a large sum of money with the hope of bringing something beautiful to the city that she loved. You’ll want to take the elevator to the top of Coit Tower for a breathtaking 360-degree view of the city.

On the hike down, treat yourself to a slice of tiramisu at Trattoria Pinnochio, located just a few blocks away. Can’t make the trip? Learn how to make tiramisu at home.

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Have Lunch at Mama’s

Is it really that good? Just ask the long line of people waiting outside every weekend! The building, which once belonged to the Church, was also home to Herbert’s Sherbert (a delightfully satisfying name). Herbert sold ice cream up front and insurance in the back. Later, when the Sanchez family bought the building, “Mama” was the star of the show. Her heartwarming personality made her a community icon, and the restaurant became one of San Francisco’s favorites. Not in the area? Find the best brunch in your state.

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San Francisco, CA / USA - May 26, 2014: People enjoying an espresso at historic Caffe Trieste in North Beach.; Shutterstock ID 1129059932; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): Taste of HomeMarstar/Shutterstock

Visit Cafe Trieste

The famous Cafe Trieste is known for two things: coffee and opera. Giovanni Giotta, also known as “Papa Giotta,” immigrated to the United States but missed the espresso in Italy. In 1956, he opened Cafe Trieste, to roast beans and provide the most authentic espresso on the West Coast. The cafe also hosts live opera performances on Saturdays and Sundays. It’s truly unique and must be experienced at least once in a lifetime!

Improve the taste of your morning brew by avoiding these mistakes everyone makes with coffee.

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NEW YORK CITY - JUL 22: Ninth avenue on July 22, 2014 in New York. 9th Avenue, known as Columbus Avenue is a southbound thoroughfare on the West Side of Manhattan.; Shutterstock ID 224115220; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): Taste of HomeAlexander Prokopenko/Shutterstock

Take a Stroll Down Columbus Ave.

There is so much to see walking up and down lively Columbus Ave. It’s a great place to really get the feel of Little Italy. Listen for a snippet of conversation spoken in Italian, and for a moment, you might feel as if you’re a bit closer to the real deal.

Make it feel like Italy at home with one of our favorite Italian recipes.

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Order a Pizza at Piazza-Pellegrini

The Quattro Formaggi Pizza at this well-known trattoria does not disappoint! I knew from my first bite, as my eyes quite literally rolled back into my head, that no other pizza could compare. The sharpness of the feta, combined with the freshly sliced mozzarella and the Parmigiano, was complete bliss. However, what really set this dish apart, was the perfect amount of truffle oil drizzled over the surface. Recreate that experience at home with one of our all-time best pizza recipes.

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Bonus: Where to Stay in Little Italy

Finding the right place to stay is essential and thankfully, there are many different options in North Beach. Buon viaggio!

Washington Square Inn: The Washington Square Inn is located in the heart of Little Italy. It has the charm and comfort of a historic European hotel, with antiques in each room and evening hors d’oeuvres in the lobby. Book now.

Hotel Boheme: For the most authentic experience, check out this charming hotel. It was refurbished after the 1906 earthquake but has maintained its 1880s charm. Located on Columbus Ave., Hotel Boheme is a quick walk from many iconic stops in North Beach. Book now.

Kaila Harmon
Kaila Harmon is a California native who has a deep passion for writing that has been with her from a young age. She owns a small business in which she creates various handmade home decor pieces and novelties that showcase the beauty and humor in everyday life. Before owning her small business, she obtained a Yoga Teacher Certificate and has taught both yoga and meditation off and on throughout the past ten years.