Every Christmas Eve morning for as long as I can remember, my family and I have trekked up to North Beach, San Francisco’s Little Italy, waking up at around 5am to do so. Why?? You might ask? It is our family tradition, even before I was born to get Italian goodies as fresh as possible for Christmas dinner the next day. I even made sure to fly back from South America last year after three months spent living in Argentina to ensure I made it to this tradition. I got off the plane and we went straight to North Beach!
The first stop is Liguria Bakery, where we get the best focaccia (Italian flat bread) I have ever had! The tradition began with my “Grandma Irma” who is not blood-related, but she used to babysit my older brother and me and has been more than a Grandmother to me. She is Italian and loves to have focaccia, olives, meats, cheeses and Italian pastries with her Christmas dinner the following day.
Liguria Bakery opens at 7am on Christmas Eve, and we usually aim to be there when they open. Despite this, there is already a line up the block before they even open the doors! We see some of the same people in line every year and meet new ones, talking to the other families in line who share this tradition. While some of us hold our place in line, we grab coffee at Cafe Roma for some energy and stop by Victoria pastry shop that Grandma Irma has been going to for many years for éclairs, sugar cookies and almond torts.
After that, we head over to Molinari Delicatessen, where the Molinari family sells delicious Italian wines, cheese, meats, olives, and much more! (The Pope was recently given a salami from Molinari by a boy who met him!) Despite going to two other stores and grabbing coffee, some of us are usually still in line at Liguria; it usually takes about THREE HOURS!! I don’t know many other things I would wait in a line for three hours for (I’m not a Black Friday shopper and have never waited in line for a movie to come out) but this focaccia is so droolworthy, and as we explain to others in line who there for the first time, it is the experience that makes it.
After all that, you get inside the shop, which only holds about ten people, and Grandma Liguria curtly takes your order with no apologies for running out of a flavor of bread after you just waited for three hours. Grandma Irma and I debated who should ask for the cut up slice of the tomato and green onion “pizza” flavor and hoped that we got to order from her daughter rather than her and I have never seen anyone intimidate Grandma Irma!
This tradition means so much to me and I wouldn’t miss it for the world!
What holiday traditions do you and your family share?