A Foodie’s Evening in the Mission District, San Francisco
I have the pleasure of visiting San Francisco every six weeks, or so. Of course, there are so many wonderful restaurants and food shops in the greater San Francisco area due to the climate, cultural diversity and gourmet/wine appreciation and awareness in general.
One of my favorite areas is the Mission District:
The Mission District is a neighborhood in which San Francisco’s oldest standing building is located. The neighborhood gets it’s name from the Spanish missionaries who arrived in the area during the late 18th century and established their Mission from which to work and live. During the 19th and 20th centuries, Irish and German immigrant workers moved into the area. Following the 1906 earthquake, development and settlement intensified, as many businesses and residents moved into the area, establishing Mission Street as a major commercial street. In 1926, the Polish community and the Irish community made their marks on the area. The 1940-1960s saw large numbers of Mexicans moving to the area. Also during the 1960s, many Central American immigrants contributed to a Central American presence that outnumbered Mexicans in the 1960s. The 1980s and 1990s received more people from Central and South America escaping civil wars and political instability. Through 1990-today the area has seen gentrification due to young professionals who wish to live a more hipster lifestyle, but in a more gentrified way- which caused a rise in housing prices, while meanwhile maintaining the rich cultural diversity of the neighborhood.
An evening out in the Mission District for me always begins with an afternoon phone call to my dear friends Larella and Massimo- owners of La Ciccia, which is one of my favorite restaurants in the world, to see what time they can make room for us at their counter for dinner that evening. Once we’ve secured a reservation, we arrive in the Mission District about one hour prior in order to stroll the area.
As we anticipate our fabulous dinner at La Ciccia while walking through the neighborhood, we always make it a point to stop by the cookbook store (only cookbooks are sold in the store) Omnivore Books:
Frequently, there are readings by authors, as well as books signed by several authors, local and otherwise, for sale. I love perusing the many cookbooks on offer in this charming independent book store.
Another must-stop is Mission Cheese:
San Francisco is a heaven for cheese lovers like me. This spot is fabulous for a meal, or for take-away. I love to drop in prior to our La Ciccia dinner to purchase locally produced cheese for a picnic the next day.
Now, it’s time to walk back to La Ciccia for dinner!!
La Ciccia is a very popular Sardinian restaurant, in which Larella runs the reservations, seating, hosting, etc… and in which Massimo executes artistry in the kitchen as the head chef. Massimo and Larella are such a fantastic team, that their restaurant is booked for weeks in advance. Thankfully, we are friends with them; they kindly seem to find a way to squeeze us in whenever we’re in town. My husband and I prefer to sit at the bar, so that we can watch Massimo at work in the kitchen and catch a quick word with him and Larella in between their work.
I ALWAYS order the same dish, spaghetti alla bottarga, which is a Sardinian specialty and beyond compare. I love it so much, that I order a double portion- which says a lot, as I’m a size two. I clean my plate every time. My husband always orders their white pizza, which is comprised of cheeses, salami, radicchio and Italian herbs. Everything on the menu is divine! The service is impeccable and warm. I must also add that La Ciccia has received awards year after year from Wine Spectator Magazine for their extensive and excellent wine lists. Massimo and Larella make everyone feel like family; once you go, you’ll be returning again and again. Simply the best!
Lastly, we always jump into our car for the short drive to Mitchell’s Ice Cream:
This last indulgence is completely over-the-top, as we have usually eaten so much at La Ciccia, that we’ve no room left in our tummies- but we push on regardless (there’s always room for ice cream). Mitchell’s has been in business since 1953 as a family-owned business. The ice cream is hand-made daily and is incredible. There’s always a line out the door, but the end result is very much worth the wait. Take your time in line to decide which of the many extraordinary flavors to order. I usually order their more exotic flavors, like avocado or one of their South American fruits. However, their Mexican Chocolate is second to none, as is the Grasshopper ice cream. You really cannot go wrong with anything on the menu.
By this point, I’m now wishing that I could walk back to the hotel in Union Square. The work out tomorrow will be intense, but the indulgences have definitely been worth every calorie.
Until the next time.