You know that touristy part of town that is more cheesy than authentic, more packed with photographers than not? Those tourist traps that sell overpriced souvenirs?
I happen to LOVE those places. My easily amused mind is a sucker for all things corny.
I don’t necessarily buy anything in these parts of town, but they always make me smile. The grittiness and “real” world is hidden away and instead racks of postcards and neon signs saying “Special- 10 for $2″ fill the windows. I don’t need any hoity-toity parts of town to keep me entertained. I like to hang out with the fanny-pack wearing folk.
Okay, that might be an overstatement but I found myself falling in love with the North Beach part of San Francisco. The streets are littered with tables from cafes and little Italian flags are plastered on all the light poles. It reminds me of Little Italy in NYC, another tourist trap that I thoroughly enjoyed.
After dropping off my cousin last week, my mom and I wandered through this part of town, and I decided that if I were to live in San Francisco, this might be my kind of town. People are friendly and smiling, laughing over their piles of pizza and copious wine glasses.Eating in these touristy places can be mighty hard though. It can be a struggle to find a decent meal. After wandering through San Francisco for hours and hours, my mom and I worked up a big appetite. I mean, I could’ve devoured at least 3.5 bean and cheese burritos and 2 chicken soft tacos from Taco Bell. (Don’t you measure your hunger by Taco Bell increments?) So when a little lady outside of Mona Lisa Restaurant tempted us with descriptions of pizzas and pastas, I was sold.
I couldn’t tell you that much about the bread because I literally inhaled the loaf. It was a simple sourdough loaf and for some reason, it tasted amazing. I couldn’t stop slicing off pieces and dipping it in to the fruity oil and vinegar I had. In retrospect, the bread wasn’t THAT great. In fact, I could probably make my own better, but hey, whatever…
Choosing between pizza and pasta is never a battle of epic proportions. Pizza wins, hands down. I ordered the Margherita pizza, which you know I love. I’m proud to report, my pizza was pretty damn tasty. The mozzarella cheese melted perfectly on top of the thin, soft dough. The crust itself was exactly how I liked it- paper thin with a nice salty aftertaste and a hint of cornmeal dusted on the bottom. My mom ordered the penne pasta with eggplant, mushroom, and onion marinara sauce. Hers was pretty damn good too. While the restaurant was slightly cheesebally, I’d go back again. Plus, looking around the restaurant, I counted more Italians than tourists, which is always a good indicator of a place being a neighborhood haunt.
Despite my stomach being full beyond relief, I knew I had to stop and get some gelato, which is a major weakness of mine. In North Beach, you can walk up and down every street and I guarantee you will find at least one gelato stop. Seriously, these people know how to eat! Even though all the wonderful pastry shops tempted me so, on this particularily hot day, gelato was the only thing that could quench my sweet tooth. Outside of Washington Square, I found a nice little gelato shop, Gelato Classico Italian. Cartons upon cartons of all kinds of gelato winked back at me. Hazelnut, mint chocolate chip, mocha, chocolate, almond, how can one person choose?! Pistachio has been my new go-to flavor so how could I resist plus coffee is another big vice of mine.
In a fit of joy, I got those flavors in a nice big cup, which I knew would put me at maximum capacity but I was up for the challenge.The Espresso Bean was delightful and the Pistachio was just okay. I wish the pistachio flavor had been a little bit more flavorful, as it was only sweet, but not salty. The chunks of pistachios were a nice touch though. The Espresso Bean might’ve been my favorite though. Flecks of coffee beans popped in the sweet and creamy gelato that tasted like sweet coffee. I’d highly recommend this gelato shop, as it wasn’t full of people. I think everyone scattered to the Fro Yo shop up a couple of blocks but fro yo ain’t got nothing on gelato. The downsides were the price (4 bucks for a cup!) and the lack of seating options. I guess you could walk down to the park, but I don’t have patience.
All in all, I must say that North Beach treated me kindly. I left feeling at least 2 pounds heavier, but those treats were damn worth it. Until next time, North Beach.