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Top 3 Espresso Spots in North Beach

Caffè Trieste. The Giotta family celebrates the art of a good espresso as well as a good tune at Caffè Trieste. Every Saturday from 1 pm to 5 pm, the family presents a weekly musical. Arrive early to secure seats. The program ranges from Italian pop and folk music to operas, and patrons are encouraged to participate. There's live music at other times during the week as well. If you're one of the few people in creation who hasn't begun a screenplay, here's some inspiration: legend has it that Francis Ford Coppola wrote The Godfather screenplay here. 601 Vallejo St., at Grant Ave., North Beach, San Francisco, CA, 94133. 415/392–6739. www.caffetrieste.com.

Mario's Bohemian Cigar Store. Intimate, triangular Mario's Bohemian Cigar Store serves up great hot focaccia sandwiches and North Beach–worthy espresso at its few tables and beautiful antique oak bar under old-time posters. On sunny days, take your order across the street to Washington Square for a classic San Francisco picnic. 566 Columbus Ave., North Beach, San Francisco, CA, 94133. 415/362–0536.

Caffè Roma. A glance at the menu board—"Espresso: $1.80, Espresso with lemon: $20"—will clue you in that Caffè Roma takes its coffee a lot more seriously than it takes itself. And if you've got a problem with that, owner Tony Azzollini will convince you, from his refusal to make your coffee extra hot to his insistence that you drink your espresso the moment it's brewed. Airy and decidedly undistracting—black and white marble is the predominant theme—Roma is a no-nonsense coffee drinker's pit stop for a hot cup as well as coffee drinks, pastries, and wine. Spot the massive red roaster in the window and you'll know you're here. And if you insist on the lemon twist, you deserve to pay. 526 Columbus Ave., North Beach, San Francisco, CA, 94133. 415/296–7942.

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