For a generation, newspaper columnists and locals have bemoaned the changes that have swept through North Beach. Yet, some neighborhood institutions remain the same, and some are even better. One of the best is Gino and Carlo, an unpretentious Italian bar founded in 1942 just a block off Columbus Avenue. Ron Minolli, a bartender and part-owner, has been a fixture at the bar for more than 30 years and knows all the regulars, and often their parents and grandparents, too. The place isn’t a time warp, though. There are plenty of lively activities at this friendly watering hole and always a new face or two. It is also one of the few North Beach bars that is still open from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m.
Gino and Carlo, 548 Green St., San Francisco, (415) 421-0896
How long have you been here? I started here 33 years ago. There are four partners and we all work here.
Are you a local? I was born and raised in North Beach and went to [St. Ignatius]. I went to San Francisco State. My wife was born and raised here, too. We’d still be living here, but 19 years ago we had twins and the homeless problem was really bad, so we moved to Marin. Since then, we have been looking to move back. North Beach is what we know.
What did you do before working here? I was inducted in the Fire Department at 25, but they offered me a partnership here at 26. I worked here in college and drove for San Francisco Mountain Springs Water Co.
What are some of the activities you host here? We have pool teams, softball teams and a Thursday lunch every other week. It’s $20 for all the wine you can drink, a main course and pasta. We don’t want to turn it into complete sports bar, so we do the lunch as a camaraderie thing. We usually get 65 to 85 people for lunch. We’ve had an eight-ball pool tournament here since 1972. We start out with 64 players and have prizes for the winners.
What’s the clientele like? We get lawyers, accountants, policemen, firemen, stock market guys and Merchant Marines. On weekends, we get a young crowd. The regulars are what keep us going, especially with this economy and the fact that a lot of people have moved out of The City. We have regulars in the mornings, afternoons, evenings and late nights. We have football kids, basketball pools and the Giants are huge, obviously.
What do you like about bartending? When I come to work, it’s always different because I rotate days and nights. The real people come out on Sundays and I’ve learned that you shouldn’t make judgments when you see people. You never know who they are.
Do you get any celebrities here? We’ve had Matt Dillon and Matt Damon before he was famous. People come in and won’t get bothered. We get people who work with Coppola. [The late columnist] Charles McCabe used to write his columns here and we get [veteran journalist and former San Francisco Examiner columnist] Warren Hinckle and [former Supervisor] Aaron Peskin. Carol Doda comes in here to sing once a month.
What’s the history of this place? Before Gino and Carlo, it was another bar. I think it was called Tony and Mario’s, but that’s hearsay. In the 1940s, you got seamen, longshoremen, scavengers — the whole collage. It was a real Italian bar. We used to do bachelor parties in the basement a long time ago. That ended many years ago.
Add ice to a rocks glass. Pour Campari and soda and stir. Float the brandy. Finish with a twist.