If it's Noon This Must be Vesuvio

independent-11sept06.jpgBy Matthew Stafford

Last week I took it upon myself to show a visitor around San Francisco. The visitor in question, a New Zealander, was on the initial leg of a year-long circumnavigation of the globe, and as a native San Franciscan I wanted her to get home several months from now and say to herself, "Well, the canals of Venice were very nice, and that Great Wall was pretty impressive, but they couldn't compare to that focaccia place in North Beach."

To that end I endeavored to show her everything worth seeing and eating in the northeastern corner of the city (District 3 to you politicos) in the space of 16 hours. We didn't hit all the hot spots, but God knows we tried.

We began with a 9 a.m. breakfast of omelets and fresh berries at Sears Fine Foods (439 Powell St.) - she wouldn't get the dollar-sized pancakes despite my admonitions - then off to the Financial District to check out a few art deco office lobbies and the Maxfield Parrish mural at the Palace's Pied Piper Lounge (2 New Montgomery St.).

Thus fortified, we headed up Montgomery to the Transamerica Pyramid, Gold Alley and Chinatown, home of the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory and the Imperial Tea Court.

After entering North Beach and lingering at City Lights, Vesuvio (255 Columbus Ave.) and Caffe Greco, we purchased a sheet of focaccia at Liguria, headed up Telegraph Hill and made a picnic of it. Then down the Filbert Steps to the Embarcadero and the Ferry Building for all the free samples we could get away with.

The California Street cable car dropped us at Swan Oyster Depot and See's Candy next door. The trek up Russian Hill to the Vallejo Street lookout, Macondray Lane and the crooked part of Lombard restored the appetite somewhat, and we were off to Forbes Island for a supper of grilled salmon, roast duckling and pot de crème. Back to North Beach for dancing and daiquiris at the Cigar Bar, Anchor Steam at Specs and final restorative platters of pasta at the Steps of Rome.

We didn't make it to the park and the Mission, but there's always next time.

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