Tucked along one of San Francisco’s best streets – Grant between Filbert and Union – is a perfectly curated specialty food market full of heart and absolutely brimming with good taste. Little Vine is a gem in the heart of North Beach.
Their web site states that, “Our shop is for people who love to eat, drink and cook, that focuses on local, artisan products.” I happened upon Little Vine while desperately searching for some good coffee in North Beach and a space that hadn’t been swallowed up by tourists. And I immediately fell in love.
Not only is the shop beautifully constructed, with gorgeous details here and there, but the coffee (using freshly ground Bicycle Coffee beans and hand poured to order) was also perfect. As jazz played in the background, I sipped my coffee and perused the market. There were freshly made artisan sandwiches, shelves full of locally-sourced products and even a woman from Berkeley in the corner handing out samples of her traditional Italian baked cinnamon cookies, CiCi’s Italian Butterhorns.
How long had this place been around, I asked myself, and how come I hadn’t heard about it?
Fortunately, SF Station was able to interview one of the owners, Melissa Gugni, who runs the shop with her husband Jay, and I was to have my curiosity sated.
SF Station (SFS): What finally prompted you to take the plunge and bring this idea into fruition?
Melissa Gugni (MG): Jay and I have been in the food and wine business for most of our working lives. We have run a cocktail catering business called Drink for the past 8 years, and knew that we wanted to open another business. We live 2 blocks away from the shop and Jay had his eye on it for years. It was such a cute spot with so much potential on one of our favorite blocks in the city.
SFS: What is your favorite part of North Beach?
MG: Our wonderful neighbors. It may sound corny, but we feel so fortunate to be serving such a supportive community. In the short time that we have been open, we have gotten to know so many of our great customers. Many bring their families and friends to see us when they come to town. It makes it a pleasure to come to work everyday.
SFS: You’ve been open for less than a year, what is one lesson you learned while in business?
MG: People really, really love cheese.
MG: Locally made sweets like Clairesquares, Double Dutch Sweets and Kika’s Treats. Our insanely good Bicycle Coffee. Emmy’s Pickles and Jams.
SFS: Okay, are the Soul Food Farms eggs (a whopping $9/dozen) really *that* good?
MG: Yes! One taste and you will be hooked!
SFS: What is your favorite wine?
MG: Jay and I are huge Pinot Noir fans – Sonoma Coast, Russian River, Burgundy. We used to joke about what if we opened the shop and only sold Pinot?
SFS: Does the shop still rent picnic baskets (which include sandwiches, soda, salumi & a cheeseboard for $25/person)? If so, is this a popular feature?
MG: We do rent picnic baskets – folks love them! Both tourists and locals order them – they are great to take to Washington Square Park or for a day up in the Wine Country.
Purveyors of Cheese, Wine & Provisions
1541 Grant Avenue between Filbert & Union
Hours: Tue-Fri 11am – 7pm; Sat, 10am – 7pm; Sun, 11am – 5pm
Images courtesy of Little Vine