In our 'What's in your Bay?" series, 7x7 asks local chefs, artists, designers, athletes, and entrepreneurs what restaurants, venues, and getaways form the landmarks of their Bay Area (and beyond).
Whether you realize it or not, if you’ve spent any time in North Beach, you already know Tony Gemignani. Since the 2009 opening of his first restaurant, Tony’s Pizza Napoletana, he’s built a neighborhood empire that now includes Capo’s, Toscano Brothers Bakery, and Giovanni Italian Specialties, and Slice House.
The first non-Neapolitan ever to take home the title of world champion pizza maker at the World Pizza Cup in Naples, Italy, Gemignani is not just a household name in San Francisco. With three books, multiple television appearances, and four Guinness World Records, the chef and restaurateur is a master of all things Italian.
Although Gemignani now lives with his wife Julie and son Giovanni in Alamo in the East Bay, he still spends much of his time in his adopted North Beach neighborhood on projects both in and out of the kitchen, including the recent launch of a Slice House franchise program which will soon expand the pizzeria to Mountain View and Folsom.
Recently, the pizzaiolo took a break from the oven to tell us what’s in his Bay, from his favorite restaurant splurge to the California resort he can’t wait to return.
Tadich Grill's "simple, old school cocktails (like the Tom Collins) are superb, and the staff, servers, and bartenders are all amazing," says Gemignani.(Courtesy of @tadichgrill)
What restaurant is your favorite splurge?
Tadich Grill (240 California St.) is my family’s favorite. When we lived on California Street across from the Ritz-Carlton, my wife and I would walk down to Tadich to eat and drink, then ride the cable car back up the hill to get home. Their simple, old school cocktails (like the Tom Collins) are superb, and the staff, servers, and bartenders are all amazing. I love to order the octopus salad and garlic bread and my wife loves both the halibut and salmon. Their steaks are amazing too. We still love to go when we can to grab a quick seat at the bar or hideaway in a cozy booth.
What is your go-to neighborhood spot for food or drinks?
I have several spots for cocktails, but most frequently find myself at Tony Nik’s (1534 Stockton St.) and Gino & Carlo(548 Green St.). Locals hang out there, the drinks are solid, and we all know and love the bartenders. For food in North Beach, I go to Original Joe’s (601 Union St.), Sodini’s(510 Green St.), Sotto Mare (552 Green St.), Il Pollaio (555 Columbus Ave.), and Firenze by Night (1429 Stockton St.). There’s great food and service at these spots, and it’s always a mix of locals and tourists.
What new restaurant or bar are you excited to check out?
I have been wanting to try Californios (355 11th St.) for years. I hear nothing but great things from my guests, and other chefs and restaurateurs in the industry.
Caffe Trieste is "such a hub for locals, politicians, writers, poets, and toursits," says Gemignani.(Courtesy of @caffetriesteofficial)
What’s your preferred place for coffee?
Caffe Trieste (601 Vallejo St.) is my go-to spot for coffee. Everyone and anyone is always there. It’s such a hub for locals, politicians, writers, poets, and tourists.
What is your favorite Bay Area venue for live music, and the most memorable show you’ve seen there?
Wow, this is a lot of different places for me over the years. Shoreline (1 Amphitheatre Pkwy, Mountain View), Great American Music Hall (859 O’Farrell St.), Bill Graham (99 Grove St.), Oasis (298 11th St.), and Chase Center (1 Warriors Way) are the ones that are still open today. For most memorable concerts, I would say Kiss, The Reverend Horton Heat, The Brian Setzer Orchestra, Stone Temple Pilots, The Rolling Stones, The Black Crowes, Lords of Acid, Morrissey, Smashing Pumpkins, and Garbage. My go to clubs for house music/DJs include 1015 Folsom (1015 Folsom St.) and The EndUp (401 6th St.).
"Castello di Amaroso is magical and romantic, especially below ground," says Gemignani.(Courtesy of @thecastello)
What’s your favorite Northern California day trip?
Napa. I love Wine Country and so does my wife. The perfect day is spent wine tasting and finishing up with an early dinner at Bistro Don Giovanni (411 Howard Ln., Napa)
What’s your favorite winery, brewery or distillery?
I have a few favorite Napa wineries: Nickel & Nickel (8164 St. Helena Hwy, Oakville), Castello di Amorosa (4045 St. Helena Hwy, Calistoga), and Sinegal (2125 Inglewood Ave., St. Helena). Castello is magical and romantic, especially below ground. I highly recommend opting for the private tour and sampling the Italian specialties such as prosciutto di Parma or soppressata along with the delicious wines. If you hit Sinegal, ask for Doug. He is amazing and knows his wines. You can take a tour of the winery’s property then hang out in the gazebo sipping wine as you look out over Wine Country.
Which California hotel or resort keeps you coming back?
The Hotel Del Coronado (1500 Orange Ave., Coronado). We love the amenities. It’s on the beach and Coronado is a cute town with great restaurants and shopping. Another favorite is Hotel Bohème here in San Francisco (444 Columbus Ave.). Before I had my restaurants, that’s where we would stay in North Beach. It’s right above Stella Pastry & Café (446 Columbus Ave.) and each morning you can smell the coffee and cookies. It was the perfect home for our day trips to Little Italy where we would eat and drink, go to Liguria Bakery (1700 Stockton Ave.), visit City Lights Bookstore (261 Columbus Ave.), drink at the bars, and have dinner with fellow Italians.