Next to my house was a restaurant called Da Flora, located on the corner of Columbus and Filbert. Anisse worked there, and sometimes I would see her setting up the front as I was walking home.
Da Flora, like all the good North Beach establishments, felt like it was never open. It is quaint and charming, and seated no more than 30. It felt like someone’s wine cellar or pop-up dinner place.
It’s an Italian restaurant in North Beach that’s not for tourists. The only people that know about it are the people that know about it and it’s not hyped up like all the other places in the city.
It’s rustic and dimly lit and the menu is written in cursive. The bottom of the check says “cash preferred.” Mary Beth, the owner, always remembered my name.
I liked to treat myself to dinner there after a five-mile run. I liked how I could shower and slip into a dress and heels with wet hair and walk a third of a block down to the coziest restaurant in North Beach and eat a nice meal.
The food came out in perfect little portions. It always started with the housemade foccacia, which apparently never comes out the same, but it’s good every time: crispy on the outside, oily in the middle, and topped with Maldon salt. Sometimes I get second and third helpings.
I always got the butter leaf lettuce salad. Perfect leaves delicately dressed in a basic vinaigrette with a little cheese. During the fall, they have these noticeably delicious grapes called Bronx grapes in the salad. According to Anisse, there are only two farms in the area that grow and sell these grapes. They offered a sweet counterbalance to the savoriness of the salad. Apparently the skin is so thin that it’s hard to ship the grapes, so the farmer delivers them in his truck in special containers.
Next I’d go for the housemade sweet potato gnocchi. It was browned and pan-fried in a sage cream sauce. I appreciated the little chunks of sweet potatoes in there.
The apple crisp is to die for and one time I came in just to buy it and take it home and Mary Beth accommodated me even though she probably didn’t want to but did probably because she could tell how much I loved it.
Da Flora, like North Beach, was something I treasured so much and I hope it keeps secretly existing, like all good things that withstand the test of time.