Because the year-end holidays are approaching, I want to make a few gift suggestions from North Beach. So here is Ernesto’s Gift Guide — a sketchy compilation of esoteric, off-the-wall gifts for you to give yourself or your best friend.
Consider booking a niche for your dog or your buddy’s cat in the Pet Columbarium at the National Shrine of St. Francis of Assisi on Vallejo. You will recall that St. Francis was an animal lover. And each year on Oct. 4, Feast Day of St. Francis, the church conducts the Blessing of the Animals — all kinds of animals, including police department horses. The Pet Columbarium is a new venture for St. Francis’s National Shrine. Contact Fr. Snider, Rector, who will explain. National Shrine of St. Francis of Assisi, 610 Vallejo Street (at Columbus), 415-986-4557, www.shrinesf.org
A MARCHING BAND
I’m a big fan of the Green Street Mortuary Marching Band. Here’s a resounding gift idea: Hire the band to play at your wedding — or your funeral, whichever comes first. Get in touch with band boss Lisa Pollard at [email protected].
Upstairs at City Lights Booksellers and Publishers is a vast repository of Beat Generation literature. A copy of Allen Ginsberg’s Howl or Kaddish makes a fine gift for a latter-day Beat wannabe. City Lights Bookstore, 261 Columbus Street (at Broadway), 415-362-8193, www.citylights.com
Offer your pal an opportunity to attend “Basic Pastry Camp” — a weeklong course at Tante Marie’s. This is the North Beach cooking school started by the tireless Mary Risley back in 1979. Your newly empowered friend will smother you with cupcakes, fruit tarts, pies, and other sweet stuff. Tante Marie’s Cooking School, 271 Francisco Street (near Bellair), 415-788-6699, www.tantemarie.com
A flyer from Piccolo Press, operated by Laura Sample-Mattos, advises us of holiday festivities and gifts at this tiny North Beach printing shop and gallery. I stopped in the other afternoon to eyeball some unusual holiday gifts. Perhaps the handsomest of these are signed gilee posters by Laura’s spouse, the highly acclaimed John Mattos. They are stunning. Laura is also featuring some handmade drink coasters with the theme Noel. She has coasters called No-L — that show the English alphabet without (you guessed it) the L. Some of us print devotees go to Piccolo Press just to look at the antique platen hand press on which Laura prints her gift cards. Piccolo Press, 703 Columbus Avenue, 415-933-3035, piccolo-press.com.
I can think of no better holiday present than a dozen or so Italian sausages from Little City Market on Stockton. Proprietors Ron Spinali and son Michael turn them out on a hand-operated sausage maker. Little City has several types. All are made with pork shoulder. Not trimmed ends of this and that. The Sicilian sausage has fennel, salt and pepper, and some white wine. Calabrese is a hot one with crushed chili peppers, garlic, nutmeg, and fennel. The Spinalis also sell a sausage called Puccini, a Northern Italian-style sausage popular in Lucca. It’s made from a proprietary recipe from the collection of Graziano Lucchesi of Caffe Puccini, around the corner on Columbus. There’s also a Green Street sausage that honors that North Beach street where Ron Spinali’s father first opened his butcher shop in 1941. This one is made with Jalapeño peppers, Anaheim chilies, garlic, and chopped red and yellow sweet peppers. And, of course, Ron and Mike make a Christmas sausage. It’s basically their Sicilian Sausage with provolone cheese, garlic, and chopped parsley. Little City Market, 1400 Stockton Street (at Vallejo), 415-986-2601
MAMA’S ON WASHINGTON SQUARE
How about a cash gift of $50 to a friend who will stand in line for you at 50-year-old Mama’s on Washington Square so you don’t have to? If the stand-in gets there early enough, you can have your choice of one of 10 omelets for breakfast. If not, you may be in time for lunch of a Monte Cristo sandwich. Either way it works. Mama’s, 1701 Stockton Street (at Filbert), 415-362-6421, www.mamas-sf.com
Hoping to be included in a distant uncle’s last will and testament? Get into Schein & Schein on Upper Grant and take a look at the antique maps and prints. Perhaps that uncle would like a rare, nineteenth century map of San Francisco bordellos. Jimmy Schein has one. Schein & Schein, 1435 Grant Avenue (near Union), 415-399-8882, www.scheinandschein.com
Live Worms is artist Kevin Brown’s gallery and painting studio on Upper Grant. Kevin’s abstracts — oils and acrylics — fetch fair prices, and his work is not only shown at Live Worms, but has been displayed in one-man and group shows here in the United States and in Europe. I would be delighted if someone gave me a Kevin Brown painting as a present. And, if you don’t know why his gallery is called Live Worms, drop in and he’ll tell you. Live Worms Gallery, 1345 Grant Avenue (near Green), 415-307-1222, www.sflivewormsgallery.com
Make a major donation in your name to the Piazza St. Francis: Poets Plaza. I insist upon calling this project Lawrence Ferlinghetti Plaza because it was his idea. I’m sure St. Francis won’t mind. He has enough stuff named after him, including a city. Get in touch with www.poetsplaza.org.