This youthful North Beach hangout is often filled with patrons who speak Italian, and they often show the “calcio” (soccer) games from Italian RAI International TV. Several customers will be reading Italian newspapers at any given time, and Italian pop music often plays in the background.
However, this locale strikes me as the kind of place where the staff could care less about Italian soccer, etc., and they largely keep up appearances as a business strategy. I’ve often come in here to catch a big Juve-Roma match, only to find they are airing infomercials on TV instead and no one inside seems to care. (Contrast this with nearby Panta Rei, where the staff are religious followers. It may seem like a small matter, but it’s like the difference between watching the World Cup on the drowsy, wannabe ESPN versus the we-live-and-die-by-this-sport Univision.)
Still, this is the place the local papers often reference for passionate World Cup followers — and that’s definitely more a reflection of the patrons than the place. For the World Cup, they have an HDTV plasma screen in the corner so patrons can watch the action from inside and on the sidewalk. While they have many tables — indoor and out on the Columbus Ave. & Grant St. sidewalks — there was hardly an open table during opening match day.
Their espresso has a thinner, blond-to-nutmeg-colored crema (it varies) and a clove-like flavor with smoke, occasional sweetness, and no bitterness. San Francisco magazine once crowned their espresso as the best in the city in an August 2002 cover story, which is a perplexing exaggeration. Yet they do make a decent cup (even if there are many better cups in North Beach alone). They serve espresso in ACF cups branded with their lipstick logo.
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