1. Da Flora

    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.

     
  2. Liguria Bakery: never open. Forever getting foccacia blue balls.

     
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  4. Towards the bridge I ran

     
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  6. When in North Beach: Get drunk and buy a book from City Lights.

     
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  8. Saudade

    Sometimes this project makes me feel nauseous. When I reread old entries or pass through old neighborhoods, I get so nostalgic I get a little sick. I often cry.

    There’s a word for it. Saudade. It’s Portuguese, and there’s no direct translation, but there is a whole Wikipedia page for it.

    My friend Robert, who told me about the word, describes it as forever longing for things, people or places that have entered your life. It’s bittersweet but not as sad as you might think. It just is.

    I feel saudade when I pass by my first house in San Francisco, a blue house on Fulton and Scott, and remember how young I was and how I felt like I would never come to understand San Francisco.

    I think of saudade when I remember the days of being fresh out of college, unemployed, and subletting in the Lower Haight. I miss the freedom of not having anything to do at 2pm but watch the dogs in Duboce Park. I don’t miss the restlessness and the self-doubt that came with it.

    Saudade comes when I walk down Valencia Street and I remember when it felt like mine, before it was all glittery and filled with furniture stores. I miss the feeling that there was something to discover there.

    I’m nostalgic for Bernal and hikes up the hilI and the soap factory on 23rd and York. I miss sitting with Nico on my rooftop.

    I fondly remember when I fell in love with Donald last May. I was at his house in the Mission, wearing his brown button down shirt and helping him pack for New York. It felt like a girlfriend thing to do, and I feel saudade for the moment I realized I’d crossed the line between just liking him to possibly loving him.

    When I pass by my old place in North Beach, I think back to the mornings where my last boyfriend would adjust my helmet before we got on our bikes and made the mad dash through downtown back to the Mission. It was sunny every morning and we were so giddy with love.

    Sometimes I wonder if the nausea comes not from saudade, but the coffee I drink in the morning. Possibly, but saudade neither good or bad it’s just interesting how half of life can be longing for what has happened. Perhaps it starts the moment we leave the womb.

     
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