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Little Italy

December 11, 2015
This is all a part of the Bohemianism of San Francisco, and that is why
we are telling you about it in a book that is supposed to be devoted to
the Bohemian restaurants. The fact is that San Francisco's Bohemian
restaurants would be far less interesting were it not for the fact that
they can secure the delicacies imported by these foreign storekeepers to
supply the wants of their people.

But do not think you have exhausted the wonders of Little Italy when you
have left the stores, for there is still more to see. If you were ever
in Palermo and went into the little side streets, you saw the strings of
macaroni, spaghetti and other pastes drying in the sun while children
and dogs played through and around it, giving you such a distaste for it
that you have not eaten any Italian paste since.

But in San Francisco they do things differently. There are a number of
paste factories, all good and all clean. Take that of P. Fiorini, for
instance, at a point a short distance above Costa Brothers. You cannot
miss it for it has a picture of Fiorini himself as a sign, and on it he
tells you that if you eat his paste you will get to be as fat as he is.
Go inside and you will find that Fiorini can talk just enough English to
make himself understood, while his good wife, his sole assistant, can
neither speak nor understand any but her native Italian. But that does
not bother her in the least, for she can make signs, and you can
understand them even better than you understand the English of her
husband.

Here you will see the making of raviolis by the hundred at a time.
Tagliarini, tortilini, macaroni, spaghetti, capellini, percatelli,
tagliatelli, and all the seventy and two other varieties. The number of
kinds of paste is most astonishing, and one wonders why there are so
many kinds and what is done with them. Fiorini will tell you that each
kind has its distinctive use. Some are for soups, some for sauces, and
all for special edibility. There are hundreds of recipes for cooking the
various pastes and each one is said to be a little better than the
others, if you can imagine such a thing.

Turn another corner after leaving Fiorini's and look down into a
basement. You do not have to go to the country to see wine making. Here
is one of the primitive wine presses of Italy, and if you want to know
why some irreverent people call the red wine of the Italians "Chateau la
Feet," you have but to watch the process of its making in these
Telegraph Hill wine houses. The grapes are poured into a big tub and a
burly man takes off his shoes and socks and emulates the oxen of
Biblical times when it treaded out the grain. Of course he washes his
feet before he gets into the wine tub. But, at that, it is not a
pleasant thing to contemplate. Now you look around with wider and more
comprehensive eyes, and now you begin to understand something about
these strange foreign quarters in San Francisco. As you look around you
note another thing. Italian fecundity is apparent everywhere, and the
farther up the steep slope of the Hill you go the more children you see.
They are everywhere, and of all sizes and ages, in such reckless
profusion that you no longer wonder if the world is to be depopulated
through the coming of the fad of Eugenics. The Italian mother has but
two thoughts--her God and her children, and it is to care for her
children that she has brought from her native land the knowledge of
cookery, and of those things that help to put life and strength in their
bodies.

An Italian girl said to us one day:

"Mama knows nothing but cooking and going to church. She cooks from
daylight until dark, and stops cooking only when she is at church."

It was evident that her domestic and religious duties dominated her
life, and she knew but two things--to please her God and to care for
her family, and without question if occasion demanded the pleasure of
her family took precedence.

 

 

Fior d' Italia

December 11, 2015
Around Little Italy

San Francisco holds no more interesting district than that lying around
the base of Telegraph Hill, and extending over toward North Beach, even
as far as Fisherman's Wharf. Here is the part of San Francisco that
first felt the restoration impulse, and this was the first part of San
Francisco rebuilt after the great fire, and in its rebuilding it
recovered all of its former characteristics, which is more than can be
said of any other part of the rebuilt city.

Here, extending north from Jackson street to the Bay, are congregated
Italians, French, Portuguese and Mexicans, each in a distinct colony,
and each maintaining the life, manners and customs, and in some
instances the costumes, of the parent countries, as fully as if they
were in their native lands. Here are stores, markets, fish and vegetable
stalls, bakeries, paste factories, sausage factories, cheese factories,
wine presses, tortilla bakeries, hotels, pensions, and restaurants; each
distinctive and full of foreign life and animation, and each breathing
an atmosphere characteristic of the country from which the parent stock
came.

Walk along the streets on the side of Telegraph Hill and one can well
imagine himself transported to a sunny hillside in Italy, for here he
hears no other language than that which came from the shores of the
Mediterranean. Here are Italians of all ages, sexes and conditions of
servitude, from the padrone to the bootblack who works for a pittance
until he obtains enough to start himself in business. If one investigate
closely it will be found that many of the people of this part of San
Francisco have been here for years and still understand no other
language than that of their native home. Why should they learn anything
else, they say. Everybody around them, and with whom they come in
contact speaks Italian. Here are the Corsicans, with their peculiar
ideas of the vendetta and the cheapness of life in general, and the
Sicilians and Genoese and Milanese. Here are some from the slopes of
Vesuvius or Aetna, with inborn knowledge of the grape and of wine
making. All have brought with them recipes and traditions, some dating
back for hundreds of years, or even thousands, to the days before the
Christian Era was born. It is just the same to them as it was across the
ocean, for they hear the same dialect and have the same customs. Do they
desire any special delicacy from their home district, they need but go
to the nearest Italian grocery store and get it, for these stores are
supplied direct from Genoa or Naples. This is the reason that many of
the older men and women still speak the soft dialect of their native
communities, and if you are so unfortunate as not to be able to
understand them, then it is you who are the loser.

Do you wish to know something about conditions in Mexico? Would you like
to learn what the Mexicans themselves really think about affairs down in
that disturbed republic? Go along Broadway west of Grant avenue, and
then around the corner on Stockton, and you will see strange signs, and
perhaps you will not know that "Fonda" means restaurant, or that
"Tienda," means a store. But these are the signs you will see, and when
you go inside you will hear nothing but the gentle Spanish of the
Mexican, so toned down and so changed that some of the Castilians
profess to be unable to understand it.

Here you will find all the articles of household use that are to be
found in the heart of Mexico, and that have been used for hundreds of
years despite the progress of civilization in other countries. You will
find all the strange foods and all the inconsequentials that go to make
the sum of Mexican happiness, and if you can get sufficiently close in
acquaintance you will find that not only will they talk freely to you,
but they will tell you things about Mexico that not even the heads of
the departments in Washington are aware of.

Perhaps you would like to know something about the bourgeoise French,
those who have come from the peasant district of the mother country. Go
a little further up Broadway and you will begin to see the signs
changing from Spanish to French, and if you can understand them you will
know that here you will be given a dinner for twenty-five cents on week
days and for thirty-five cents on Sundays. The difference is brought
about by the difference between the price of cheap beef or mutton and
the dearer chicken.

Up in the second story on a large building you may see a sign that tells
you meals will be served and rooms provided. One of these is the
rendezvous of Anarchists, who gather each evening and discuss the
affairs of the world, and how to regulate them. But they are harmless
Anarchists in San Francisco, for here they have no wrongs to redress, so
they sit and drink their forbidden absinthe, and dream their dreams of
fire and sword, while they talk in whispers of what they are going to do
to the crowned heads of Europe. It is their dream and we have no quarrel
with it or them.

But for real interest one must get back to the slope of Telegraph Hill;
to the streets running up from Columbus avenue, until they are so steep
that only goats and babies can play on them with safety. At least we
suppose the babies are as active as the goats for the sides of the hill
are alive with them.

Let us walk first along Grant avenue and do a little window shopping.
Just before you turn off Broadway into Grant avenue, after passing the
Fior d'Italia, the Buon Gusto, the Dante and Il Trovatore restaurants,
we come to a most interesting window where is displayed such a variety
of sausages as to make one wonder at the inventive genius who thought of
them all. As you wonder you peep timidly in the door and then walk in
from sheer amazement. You now find yourself surrounded with sausages,
from floor to ceiling, and from side wall to side wall on both ceiling
and floor, and such sausage it is!

From strings so thin as to appear about the size of a lady's little
finger, to individual sausages as large as the thigh of a giant, they
hang in festoons, crawl over beams, lie along shelves, decorate
counters, peep from boxes on the floor, and invite you to taste them in
the slices that lay on the butcher's block. One can well imagine being
in a cave of flesh, yet if you look closely you will discover that
sausage is but a part of the strange edible things to be had here.

Here are cheeses in wonderful variety. Cheeses from Italy that are made
from goats' milk, asses' milk, cows' milk and mares' milk, and also
cheeses from Spain, Mexico, Germany, Switzerland, and all the other
countries where they make cheese, even including the United States.
These cheeses are of all sizes and all shapes, from the great, round,
flat cheese that we are accustomed to see in country grocery stores, to
the queer-shaped caciocavallo, which looks like an Indian club and is
eaten with fruit.

There are dried vegetables and dried fruits such as were never dreamed
of in your limited experience, and even the grocer himself, the smiling
and cosmopolitan Verga, confesses that he does not know the names of all
of them.

As you go out into the street you blink at the transformation, for you
have been thousands of miles away. You think that surely there can be
nothing more. Wait a bit. Turn the corner and walk along Grant avenue
toward the Hill. See, here is a window full of bread. Look closely at it
and you will notice that it is not like the bread you are accustomed to.
Count the different kinds. Fourteen of them in all, from the long sticks
of grissini to the great slid loaves weighing many pounds. Light bread,
heavy bread, good bread, soft bread, hard bread, delicate bread, each
having its especial use, and all satisfying to different appetites.

Now go a little further to the corner, cross the street and enter the
store of the Costa Brothers. It is a big grocery store and while you
will not find the sausage and mystifying mass of food products in such
lavish display and profuseness, as in the previous place, if you look
around you will find this even more interesting, for it is on a
different plane. Here you find the delicacies and the niceties of
Italian living. At first glance it looks as if you were in any one of
the American grocery stores of down-town, but a closer examination
reveals the fact that these canned goods and these boxes and jars, hold
peculiar foods that you are unaccustomed to. Perhaps you will find a
clerk who can speak good English, but if you cannot either of the Costa
brothers will be glad to show you the courtesy of answering your
questions.

Turn around and look at the shelves filled with bottles of wine. Now you
feel that you are on safe ground, for you know about wines and can talk
about Cresta Blanca, and Mont Rouge, and Asti Colony Tipo Chianti. But
wait a minute. Here are labels that you do not understand and wines that
you never even heard of. Here are wines whose taste is so delicious that
you wonder why it is the whole world is not talking about it and
drinking it.

Here are wines from the slopes of Aetna, sparkling and sweet. Here are
wines from grapes grown on the warm slopes of Vesuvius, and brought to
early perfection by the underground fires. Here are wines from the
colder slopes of mountains; wines from Parma and from Sicily and Palermo
where the warm Italian sunshine has been the arch-chemist to bring
perfection to the fruit of the vine. Here are still wines and those that
sparkle. Here the famed Lacrima Christi, both spumanti and fresco, said
to be the finest wine made in all Italy, and the spumanti have the
unusual quality for an Italian wine of being dry. But to tell you of all
the interesting articles to be found in these Italian, and French and
Mexican stores, would be impossible, for some of them have not been
translated into English, and even the storekeepers would be at a loss
for words to explain them.

The Two Solaris

December 11, 2015
Amid Bright Lights

Streets centering around Powell from Market up to Geary, may well be
termed the "Great White Way" of San Francisco, if New York will permit
the plagiarism. Here are congregated the most noted of the lively
restaurants of the present day San Francisco. Here the streets are
ablaze with light at night, and thronged with people, for here is the
restaurant and theatre district proper of the city.

Among the restaurants deserving of special mention in this district are
the two Solaris. When Solari opened his restaurant at 354 Geary street,
where he continues to attract good livers by the excellence of his
cooking, he at once achieved fame which has never waned. It so happened
that there were two brothers, and as sometimes occurs brothers disagreed
with the result that Fred Solari withdrew and opened a restaurant at
Geary and Mason, just a short distance from the original place.

Evidently the recipe for what is considered best in both of the Solari
restaurants came from common ownership, for each of these places gave in
response to a request for its best recipe, the following:

Chicken Country Style

Cut a chicken in eight pieces and drop them into some cold milk,
seasoning with salt. After soaking for a few minutes dry the chicken in
flour and lay in a frying pan in good butter. Place in the oven and let
them cook slowly, turning them occasionally until they are nice and
brown on all sides, when remove them. In the gravy put a tumblerful of
cream and a pinch of paprika, mix well and let it cook for ten minutes,
until it gets thick, then strain and pour over the chicken and serve.

The following "don'ts" are added to the recipe: Don't use frozen
poultry. Don't substitute corn starch and milk for cream.

Hotel St. Francis

December 11, 2015
At the Hotel St. Francis

On the morning of April 18, 1906, one of us stood in the doorway of the
Hotel St. Francis, and watched approaching fires that came from three
directions. It was but a few hours later when all that part of the city
was a mass of seething flames, and in the ruins that lay in the wake of
devastation was this magnificent hostelry.

Before business in the down-town district was reorganized, and while the
work of removing the tangled masses of debris was still in progress the
Merchants Association of San Francisco called its members together in
its annual banquet, and this banquet was held in the basement of the
Hotel St. Francis, the crumbling walls, and charred and blackened
timbers hidden under a mass of bunting and foliage and flowers. Here was
emphasized the spirit of Bohemian San Francisco, and it was one of the
most merry and enjoyable of feasts ever held in the city.

It was made possible by the fact that the management of the Hotel St.
Francis was undaunted in the face of almost overwhelming disaster. The
same spirit has carried the hotel through stress of storm and it stands
now, almost as a monument to the energy of James Woods, its manager.
There has always been a soft spot in our hearts for the Hotel St.
Francis, and it is here that we have always felt a most pleasurable
emotion when seeking a place where good things are served. Whether it be
in the magnificent white and gold dining room, or the old tapestry room
that has been remodeled into a dining room, or in the electric grill
below stairs, it has always been the same.

We asked Chef Victor Hertzler what he considered his best recipe and his
answer was characteristic of him.

"I shall give you Sole Edward VII. If this is not satisfactory I can
give you a meat, or a salad or a soup recipe." We considered it
satisfactory, and here it is:

Sole Edward VII

Cut the fillets out of one sole and lay them flat on a buttered pan, and
season with salt and pepper. Make the following mixture and spread over
each fillet of sole: Take one-half pound of sweet butter, three ounces
of chopped salted almonds, one-fourth pound of chopped fresh mushrooms,
a little chopped parsley, the juice of a lemon, salt, pepper and a
little grated nutmeg.

Add to the pan one-half glassful of white wine and put in the oven for
twenty minutes.

When done serve in the pan by placing it on a platter, with a napkin
under it.

Hertzler has another recipe which he prizes greatly and which he calls
"Celery Victor," and this is the recipe which he gave us:

Celery Victor

Take six stalks of celery well washed. Make a stock of one soup hen or
chicken bones, and five pounds of veal bones in the usual manner, with
carrots, onions, parsley, bay leaves, salt and pepper. Place the celery
in a vessel and strain the broth over it. Boil until soft and let cool
off in its own broth.

When cold press the broth out of the celery with the hand, gently, and
place on a plate. Season with salt, fresh ground black pepper, chervil,
and one-quarter white wine vinegar with tarragon to three-quarters of
best olive oil.


The Palace Hotel

July 22, 2015
Old and New Palace

One cannot well write a book on Bohemian restaurants of San Francisco
without saying something about the great hotel whose history is so
intimately intertwined with that of the city since 1873, when William C.
Ralston determined that the city by the Golden Gate should have a hotel
commensurate with its importance. San Francisco and the Palace Hotel
were almost synonymous all over the world, and it was conceded by
travelers that nowhere else was there a hostelry to equal this great
hotel.

To the bon vivant the grills of the Palace Hotel contained more to
enhance the joy of living than anywhere else, and here the chefs prided
themselves with providing the best in the land, prepared in such perfect
ways as to make a meal at the Palace the perfection of gastronomic art.

There are three distinct eras to the history of the Palace Hotel, the
first being from 1876 to 1890, the second from 1890 to 1906, and the
third from 1906 to the present day. In the earlier days the grills, both
that for gentlemen and that for ladies, were noted for their magnificent
service and their wonderful cooking. A breakfast in the Ladies' Grill,
with an omelet of California oysters, toast and coffee, was a meal long
to be remembered. Possibly the most famous dish of the old Palace was
this one of omelet with California oysters, and it was prepared in the
following manner:

Oyster Omelet

(For two): Take six eggs, one hundred California oysters, one small
onion, one tablespoonful of butter, one tablespoonful of flour, salt and
pepper to taste. Beat the eggs to a froth and stir in the onion chopped
fine. Put the eggs into an omelet pan over a slow fire. Mix the flour
and butter to a soft paste with a little cream, and stir in with the
oysters, adding salt and pepper to taste. When the eggs begin to stiffen
pour the oysters over and turn the omelet together. Serve on hot plate
with a dash of paprika.

This is the recipe of Ernest Arbogast, the chef for many years of the
old Palace. The slightly coppery taste of the California oysters gives a
piquancy to the flavor of the omelet that can be obtained in no other
way, and those who once ate of Arbogast's California oyster omelet,
invariably called for it again and again.

We asked Jules Dauviller, the present chef of the Palace, for the recipe
of what he considered the best dish now prepared at the Palace and he
said he would give us two, as it was difficult to decide which was the
best and most distinctive. These are the recipes as he wrote them for
us:

Planked Fillet Mignon

Trim some select fillet mignon of beef, about four ounces of each,
nicely. Saute these in a frying pan with clarified butter on a hot fire.
Dress on a small round plank, about four and a half inches in diameter,
decorated with a border of mashed potatoes. Over the fillet mignon pour
stuffed pimentoes, covered with a sauce made of fresh mushrooms, sauteed
sec over which has been poured a little chateaubriand sauce. Serve
chateaubriand sauce in a bowl.

The second is:

Cold Fillet of Sand-Dabs, Palace

Select six nice fresh sand-dabs. Raise the fillets from the bone skin
and pare nicely, and season with salt and paprika. Arrange them in an
earthenware dish. Cut in Julienne one stalk of celery, one green pepper,
one cucumber, two or three tomatoes, depending on their size.

With the bone of the sand-dab, well cleaned, make a stock with one
bottle of Riesling, juice of one lemon and seasoning. Add chervil and
tarragon. Season to taste and cook the Julienne ingredients with some of
the stock. When the rest of the stock is boiling poach it in the fillets
of sand-dab, then remove from the fire and let get cold. Put the
garnishing around the fillets and put on ice to get in jelly. When ready
to serve decorate around the dish with any kind of salad you like, and
with beets, capers, olives and marinated mushrooms. This must be served
very cold and you may serve mayonnaise sauce on the side.

We asked Dauviller what he considered his most delicate salad and he
gave us this recipe:

Palace Grill Salad

Select three hearts of celery and cut them Julienne. Cut some pineapple
and pimentoes into dice. Mix all well together in a bowl and add
mayonnaise sauce and a little whipped cream. Sprinkle some finely
chopped green peppers on top and serve very cold.