Another great café in San Francisco is Caffé Trieste, again in the North Beach area, and another hang out for the Beat Generation writers like Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. It was established in 1956 by an Italian immigrant called Giovanni Giotta who still does a turn singing in the café while his children Fabio and Sonia run it. A thread running through the cafés and bars I like is that they have their history on the walls - lots of photographs and artwork that make you part of an ongoing story. Here is a picture taken in 1975 with left to right: Allen Ginsberg, poet, Harold Norse, poet and novelist, Jack Hirschman, poet, Michael McClure, poet, playwright, songwriter and novelist (was 'Pat McClear' in Kerouac's 'Big Sur', and Bob Kaufman, poet.
In an interview, Ken Kesey (One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest) describes seeing Bob Kaufman on the streets of San Francisco's North Beach during a visit to that city with his family in the 1950s:
"I can remember driving down to North Beach with my folks and seeing Bob Kaufman out there on the street. I didn’t know he was Bob Kaufman at the time. He had little pieces of Band-Aid tape all over his face, about two inches wide, and little smaller ones like two inches long -- and all of them made into crosses. He came up to the cars, and he was babbling poetry into these cars. He came up to the car I was riding in, and my folks, and started jabbering this stuff into the car. I knew that this was exceptional use of the human voice and the human mind."
On the wall of photos behind them now is a photo of Francis Ford Coppola working on the script of The Godfather. Apparently he scripted most of it in the café, supporting my theory that cafés make the best environment for writing (Giuseppe di Lampedusa wrote The Leopard, Italy's most famous novel, in Caffé Mazzara in Palermo - another great café on my list). Here is my photo of the wall today - looking just the same, right down to the old stove and pipe:
A view from my table towards the entrance: