Also known as San Francisco’s Little Italy, the neighborhood of North Beach dates back to the 1800s when the North Point docks served as a gateway for immigrants. During the 1906 earthquake, Italian-American settlers apparently soaked blankets in red wine and draped them over their homes and businesses, saving the structures from the fires. Over the years, celebrities such as Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Joe DiMaggio, and Marilyn Monroe immortalized the many clubs and cafes in the area, contributing to North Beach’s romantic, fun-loving reputation. Today, the neighborhood is still vibrant with history, landmarks, museums, and festivals, and, of course, great food, and nightlife.

Grant Avenue, the city’s oldest street, is lined with specialty shops and eateries. Some of the liveliest clubs and bars in town are scattered throughout the area. And, of course, you can’t beat the authentic Italian food—and other ethnically diverse grub—offered by the many restaurants within these blocks. Several MUNI lines run through the area, making North Beach a convenient place for commuters as well. ©2016 Maryann LoRusso

In nearby Telegraph Hill stands Coit Tower, a 210-foot structure also known as the Lillian Coit Memorial Tower.

In nearby Telegraph Hill stands Coit Tower, a 210-foot structure also known as the Lillian Coit Memorial Tower.

Historic Washington Square Park has a lawn the size of a city block where festivals and free movie nights are held.

Historic Washington Square Park has a lawn the size of a city block where festivals and free movie nights are held.

Regulars stand in line on weekends for the hearty brunch at Mama’s on Washington Square.

Regulars stand in line on weekends for the hearty brunch at Mama’s on Washington Square.

Saints Peter & Paul Church is known as “la cattedrale d’Italia ovest,” or “the Italian Cathedral of the West,” serving as the home church and cultural center for San Francisco’s Italian-American community since its consecration.

Saints Peter & Paul Church is known as “la cattedrale d’Italia ovest,” or “the Italian Cathedral of the West,” serving as the home church and cultural center for San Francisco’s Italian-American community since its consecration.

In the heart of North Beach, the Joe DiMaggio Playground has a swimming pool, library, clubroom, children’s playground and tennis, basketball, and bocce courts.

In the heart of North Beach, the Joe DiMaggio Playground has a swimming pool, library, clubroom, children’s playground and tennis, basketball, and bocce courts.

Molinari Delicatessen is an old-school Italian deli offering artisanal meats, cheeses and breads.

Molinari Delicatessen is an old-school Italian deli offering artisanal meats, cheeses and breads.

In business since 1914, the Victoria Pastry Co. is one of the city’s oldest bakeries and a neighborhood institution.

In business since 1914, the Victoria Pastry Co. is one of the city’s oldest bakeries and a neighborhood institution.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s City Lights Bookstore opened in 1953 and still has one of the best collections of poetry, fine art tomes, and political rags in the city.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s City Lights Bookstore opened in 1953 and still has one of the best collections of poetry, fine art tomes, and political rags in the city.

Part of the Basque Hotel, 15 Romolo is a dimly lit speakeasy featuring blue velvet booths and a frequently updated jukebox.

Part of the Basque Hotel, 15 Romolo is a dimly lit speakeasy featuring blue velvet booths and a frequently updated jukebox.

Rita Hayworth got her start at Bimbo’s 365 supper club and speakeasy in 1931.

Rita Hayworth got her start at Bimbo’s 365 supper club and speakeasy in 1931.