North Beach and Little Italy

North Beach, a buzzy neighborhood steeped in Italian heritage, draws locals and tourists to its checked-tablecloth trattorias, coffee shops and retro-flavored bars.

North Beach is the premier destination for Italian food and culture in San Francisco! Visit for a taste of its famous Italian pizza or to window shop and explore the area. Experience the vibrant nightlife at a comedy club or at one of the many bars and dance clubs in the area.

History

Visitors may wonder why the neighborhood is called North Beach when it is half a mile away from any beach. When the neighborhood first earned this name, it actually was by the beach. The original San Francisco shoreline began at Taylor and Francisco Streets just blocks from the heart of North Beach/Little Italy. In the late 1880s, the city filled in the area past Taylor Street with landfill to create more room for development, pushing the shoreline back for several blocks. Notable tourist destinations are built on landfill, such as Ghirardelli Square and Fisherman’s Wharf.

An equally popular name for this neighborhood is Little Italy. The name comes from around the same time as the neighborhood earned the name “North Beach.” Italian immigrants made this square mile neighborhood their home because of its close location to the original shoreline, which allowed them to continue their livelihoods. Families opened Italian-owned restaurants, cafes, and butcher shops, re-creating the atmosphere of their Italian homeland. The high concentration of Italian immigrants and prevalence of Italian-themed restaurants earned the neighborhood the nickname “Little Italy”.

 

Today

Today, North Beach/Little Italy is still predominantly Italian in terms of restaurants and shop ownership, but is no longer dominated by Italian-American residents. Asian-American families have spread out from Chinatown and settled in the North Beach/Little Italy area. The shifting demographics make for a diverse local culture that is unique to San Francisco.

 

Highlights

Tony’s Pizza Napoletana: Located at 1570 Stockton St for a taste of their prize-winning Margarita pizza! Enjoy the restaurant’s outdoor seating! Braziers keep outdoor dining a comfortable and relaxing experience no matter the weather.

Washington Square: Located in the center of Little Italy. Bordered on Filbert Street by the famous Saints Peter and Paul Church, Washington Square is a welcome green space in the middle of a bustling city. Older residents practice Tai Chi in the park, creating a welcoming and serene atmosphere. Locals bring their children to the playground, and dogs to the grassy park.

City Lights Bookstore: this independent bookstore and publisher was founded in 1953. City Lights specializes in carrying books that mainstream stores typically overlook. Customers will find expansive sections on politics, literature, and alternative culture.

Saints Peter and Paul Church: located somewhat ironically at 666 Filbert Street, Saints Peter and Paul Church borders Washington Square Park. The pristine white church features breathtaking neo-Gothic architecture and towers that are lit at night. The church was made famous by Marilyn Monroe, who posed with famous ball player and new husband Joe DiMaggio on the steps in front of the media.

Segway Tours: See all of North Beach/Little Italy from a Segway! Tours begin near Aquatic Park, travel up into North Beach/Little Italy, and onto the Municipal Pier. Tours are guided, providing interesting local history and facts that the average passersby would not otherwise know.

 

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