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Italian in the Afternoon

I must have tried getting a seat at minuscule L'Osteria del Forno in North Beach about half a dozen times in the last few years. It's never possible—the few tables are always full and the wait at least a good half hour. And my husband refuses to wait in line for tables. So I had the brilliant idea of having a long holiday lunch there with a dear friend instead. Lo and behold, the place was empty on a Friday at 1 p.m., save for a lone two-top near the window.

We kept it simple: house white wine in tiny tumblers, one of the best foccacias in the city (warm and slightly crunchy with a hint of salt and olive oil), a cold salad of wine beans and tuna that rocked my world, baked ziti oozing mozzarella and a stupendous pizza with sausage and mushrooms.

One hour turned to two, which turned to three. Still L'Osteria stayed quiet while we ate and drank and talked and drank some more and ate still more. Outside, as the late afternoon light slanted on the North Beach sidewalks, I could have sworn I'd just returned from a long Italian vacation instead of merely a long lunch. L'Osteria's basic deliciousness and cozy atmo transported me. I'll be back, even if it needs to be during daylight hours.