Restaurant Review: A. Cavalli Cafe

April 10, 2016

A. Cavalli Cafe recommended by culinary guide, Anna Chotzen

A. Cavalli Co. is a cornerstone of San Francisco’s Italian heritage. Established in the 1880s, A. Cavalli was originally an Italian print shop and bookstore, providing literary and news publications to the many Italian immigrants who settled in San Francisco after the Gold Rush of the late 1840s – 1850s. Having moved to and from various locations around the city, it finally found its final resting place in the 1930s, appropriately located in the North Beach neighborhood, San Francisco’s Little Italy.

Then, in 2006, Santo Esposito, a Naples native, bought A. Cavalli Co. Professionally trained as a chef, Santa decided to transform the establishment from a print shop and bookstore to a cafe. Over the next few years, he transitioned out the many books and filled the shelves instead with fresh-filled cannolis, tiramisu, torta Della Nonnas and more. Where there was once a printing press, he put in an espresso machine. As such, A. Cavalli Co. became the A. Cavalli Cafe that we know today. Quickly, the neighbor came to know and trust Santo for his exceptional cappuccino and delectable cannolis. He spent several years serving only coffee and dessert. Then, a few years ago, Santo launched a full breakfast and lunch menu, and today you can get all but your dinner needs satisfied. And satisfied you will be.

The Food: I have the privilege of frequenting Santo’s place, and here are a few of the gems.

breakfast croissant at Cavalli Cafe

Breakfast: Toasted Croissant with Fried Egg, Prosciutto and Fresh Tomato – The croissant was flaky and buttery; the egg was perfectly done, just runny enough; and the prosciutto was, well, Italian prosciutto. Need I say more?

sandwich at Cavalli Cafe in San Francisco

Lunch: Prosciutto, Fresh Mozzerella and Tomato Sandwich – Santo makes his own bread, which is enough to make his sandwiches delicious. You already know that I’m a fan of prosciutto and the fresh mozzarella…yum. Creamy, salty yum.

cannoli at Cavalli Cafe in San Francisco

Dessert: Cannolis, of course. It seems to be the consensus in North Beach that Santo has the best cannolis on the block. Unlike most, that are made in the morning and left to sit in the glass case all day getting soggy, Santo fresh fills every single one. As you can see, the one in his case is only the sample. If you like cannolis, you need to visit Santo. If you think you don’t like cannolis, then you really need to visit Santo.

tiramusi at Cavalli Cafe

Aaaaaand tiramisu. Just because. I’ve loved it since I was a little child, and Santo’s did not disappoint. The ratio of espresso and booze soaking the ladyfingers was perfect, and the marscapone and cocoa completed the texture and flavor profile. Let’s just say I wish I had savored it more.

Insider’s tip: Look at all the old photos on the walls that tell Cavalli’s story.

A. Cavalli Cafe
Address: 1441 Stockton St., North Beach, San Francisco
Phone: (415) 421-4219
Hours: Mon-Sat 8am-6pm, closed sunday