The North Beach Street Festival gives Italophiles a taste of home – and Aperol


Even for those without a string of clashing vowels in their last name, North Beach was open to all comers Saturday for Festa Coloniale Italiana, an event that shows how San Francisco continues to rebound from the darkest days of the pandemic.

Aside from being able to sip Aperol squirts in a crowded Washington Square Park or watch red wine and red sauce flow as locals and tourists hit Stockton Street to gleeful renditions of “Volare” and “Bella Ciao” by Italian Jazz -/Radio Band Circles Sonamó, the San Francisco Italian Athletic Club Foundation’s festival, was a chance to celebrate the neighborhood’s cultural roots.

“We want to promote the Italian language and build a bridge between cultures,” said Italian-born Martina Di Biasi of the Istituto Italiano Sculoa, which offers Italian courses in San Francisco, as she stood at one of the festival’s booths.

Di Biasi said the event is also an opportunity for motherland immigrants to San Francisco to meet with Italian Americans, two groups that can sometimes be separated by cultural barriers. And remain deeply divided over something as simple as grating cheese on any type of fish dish, which is heresy in Italy.

The festival in front of the Italian Athletic Club between Filbert Street and Union Street not only drove fried calamari and meatballs up your gullet, but also into stores like the Goorin Bros. Hat Shop on Stockton Street.

“It serves us well if we just spread the word,” store manager Robyn Del Rosario said while resizing a wide-brimmed red pork pie hat for a customer. Del Rosario acknowledged that more people stick their heads in the door than buy anything, but she nonetheless welcomed the attention to the San Francisco-based milliner’s flagship shop.

As you walked down Union Street toward Grant Avenue, past the packed sidewalk tables of Tony’s Pizza Napolitana, the Italian slices began to fade. But the sense of Italian culture permeated Libreria Pino, where Pino Carboni sat smiling in the vaulted white interior of his bookstore.

Carboni said the festival has drawn visitors, though not quite as many as the steady stream that has poured in from the North Beach Festival over the years that this gathering has filled most neighborhood streets.

According to Carboni, Libreria Pino is the only Italian-language bookstore in the United States. Given the store’s specialized nature, many of its customers don’t come in off the street that often, but instead visit its store to purchase a specific title. But, he hinted, the festival brought additional customers through the door.

That wasn’t the only event to liven up the city’s historic northeast corner on Saturday afternoon.

Around 3:00 p.m., as a tenor on the festival stage intoned a riveting rendition of “Con te partirò,” anyone unaware that just a few blocks away in Chinatown almost all of Grant Avenue was closed, it could be forgiven for the much larger one Autumn Moon Festival.

Booths with people smiling selling everything from ginger to popcorn or promoting casino trips did brisk business while flute music filled the air, mingling with snippets of Chinese, English and other languages. Together, they indicated that one of the things San Francisco has been missing for the past two years is making a comeback: tourists.

Chase DiFeliciantonio is a contributor to the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @ChaseDiFelice


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