We started our journey at City Lights Bookstore on the corner of Columbus and Broadway, a place that epitomizes the SF Beat Era of North Beach. Founded in 1953 the bookstore is practically the birthplace of Beat prose and poetry and where revolutionary and evolutionary ideas and artistic expression flourished.
The sun was setting as everyone arrived, some a little tipsy, some a little late, some a little tired but as we began our 5 minute walk through the streets of North Beach to Bocce Cafe the feeling of excitement and anticipation grew. The entrance was slightly hidden, but as we walked through a pathway covered with trees and greenery, up the stairs and through the doors I was struck by the openness and serene atmosphere created by the lighting and the traditional Italian decor.
We all sat at one huge table, settled in and looked at the menu to see how we could fulfill our appetites with a 15 dollar budget per person. Samantha and I agreed on sharing the caprese salad to start and then the penne pasta with roasted garlic and tomatoes. When the food arrived everyone was looking around to see what everyone else ordered, and because we were there not just to casually eat but to think about the food, the presentation, the ingredients and where they came from, the service, the atmosphere, and what we were actually putting in our mouths and consuming, dinner itself was more interesting and enjoyable. Many times when you go out to eat, its because you are hungry and you don’t want to think too much about food or to spend time preparing it. Being at the Bocce Cafe with 17 people all focused on every aspect of the meal was completely different and enhanced the flavor and experience.
When the waiter asked if we wanted dessert, we all looked at each other and shook our head as if the thought of eating anything else disgusted us. Then the bill arrived and it was the easiest transaction I have ever dealt with considering our party was the size of basketball team (everyone knows that trying to pay the bill with a crowd over 4 is a huge pain in the ass, someone gets stuck paying more, someone doesn’t pay enough and it kind of ruins the whole dinner and night).
Then after the meal we walked to The Italian French Baking Company where we were given a behind the scenes tour of the bakery. Seeing the process of making and baking the bread was fascinating and knowing the process makes me think more about where my food is coming from and the time and energy that goes into every loaf of bread (toast is probably my favorite thing in the world, so I eat a lot of bread).
The North Beach Crew set the bar high for the other crews to follow. Congrats, the night was amazing!