After 20 years in the neighborhood, Caffe Roma will shutter its 526 Columbus Ave. coffeehouse. An employee at the cafe told Inside Scoop the final day of service will be Saturday, Sept. 30. Hoodline was first to report the news.
Cafe Roma was different. Their coffee – Sicilian Gold – an espresso blend, was arguably the best in the world. Rich thick crema, complex but not burned taste, and smooth full bodied. There just wasn’t anything like it.
So I’d scurry on the N-Judah streetcar and take the half hour crowded bustle schlep down to market street and then it would be a long half hour walk up to north beach. Quite an effort for a cup of coffee and a bag of beans.
But these were no ordinary beans. Magic beans. A lost art of goodness. And they supplied coffee to all the north beach restaurants ensuring that all across the way you could be assured a fantastic cappucino with your gnocci alfredo.
The encroachments on north beach are many. Sadly this one was greed – raising the rent through the stratosphere no doubt. There’s also the endless push of Chinatown wiping away North beach institutions. Is cafe Trieste still there? Sodinis? Does the little old lady still sell bread and cookies on green street? It’s all fading away as hard working italians pass into their 80s. The new sanfrancisco is hoodlems, gang bangers and people who shit on the streets. The nostalgic wonderful san francisco is a memory fading away.
San francisco will always be special just the geography the slow steep slopes of telegraph and pac heights descending into wide bay vistas while ten million dollar taco houses in pink and gray line up and down hillsides as mutual fund managers and investment bankers get rewarded for doing almost nothing of significance. San Franciscans can’t afford to live there any more. Cafe Roma case in point.
I left the city 12 years ago. Too many heroin addicts shooting up in million dollar neighborhoods, homeless asleep in every single doorway. It was just too much. It has become, a place for doctors, lawyers, a few techies, and the terribly poor living in squalor and many thousands living on the streets. I remember the movie midnight caller which was set in the city. It’s a vibrant clash of cultures like no other. A magnificant china town, japan town, italian and spanish towns. When you wanted seedy you strolled the tenderloin and when you wanted posh there were hotel nightclubs on nob hill. In the days when you might find parking after half an hour of searching you could drive to the mission or lower haight and get a crusty live band. What other city has that? Boston doesn’t have the asian side and Vancouver is just too white.
To all the people who made Cafe Roma happen, I love you. I love all of you truly and sincerely. I am almost in tears.
Please someone, pack up a few pounds of sicilian gold and send them my way. For now that amazing coffee has to live in my memories. sniff.
Caffe Roma’s operations outside of the Columbus Avenue space will not be affected. Coffee will still be sold through its website, and the doors to the Bryant Street (885 Bryant St.) and Millbrae spaces (143 S. El Camino Real) will remain open.
Anthony and Sergio Azzollini founded the cafe and coffee roaster in 1989 but didn’t open the Columbus Street space until 1997. And like North Beach’s Rose Pistola, which came up in the same business generation, Caffe Roma was buoyed by the tight-knit neighborhood’s faithful audience. There was stability in the North Beach food scene.
But that was then. Times have changed and so has the coffee landscape in San Francisco. Irene Azzollini, one of the cafe’s owners, told Hoodline the operation was shutting down in part because of a rent increase. She also said the rent hikes would probably keep Caffe Roma from looking for an alternative location in that neighborhood.
Sky-high rents or not, buildings don’t seem to languish without an occupant for long in North Beach. Rose Pistola, for example, closed in February after 21 years. It was in the hands of new owners less than a month later. Pantarei, also on Columbus Avenue, closed this month after 12 years. Francesco Covucci and Peter Fazio of nearby Il Casaro have already snatched it up.