Customers abiding to social distancing guidelines at Guerra Quality Meats, July 2020. (Heritage photo)
by Kerri Young
From the 1910s to the 1970s, the Parkside District was a middle-class suburban enclave of families of mostly western European descent. While there was a large population of Irish-Americans who made the Parkside their home, many Italian-Americans also lived in the district. Many family-owned Italian businesses along the Parkside’s main commercial artery of Taraval Street, founded decades ago, are still serving customers today.
Guerra Quality Meats
In 1954, Mark and Battista Guerra opened their butcher shop on the corner of Taraval at 22nd Avenue, and it flourished in its role catering to the the Italian and Irish families of the Parkside District. In the early 1980s, Mark moved to another grocery store, this time in West Portal, and then back to the Parkside to a 1929 Mediterranean-Revival style building at 15th Avenue and Taraval that they continue to occupy today.1 The business still retains its high-quality butcher shop, and over the years has added a deli, produce section, full-service catering, and even their own brand of sauces and marinades. And, bringing a piece of North Beach Italian heritage to the Parkside, Guerra also carries the legendary focaccia bread from legacy business Liguria Bakery.
Guerra’s has stayed in the family and today Robert and Paul Guerra, Mark’s sons, and cousin John Guerra, Battista’s son, are owners. While continuing to serve second- and even third-generation shoppers, over the years they have also adapted and grown their business to stay current with the times. For example, under this new generation of ownership, Guerra’s has created a robust online shopping portal to make shopping more convenient, a far cry from the businesses’ butcher-counter-days in the 1950s.
A look at Guerra’s revamped website.
Guerra’s occupies the ground-floor of a three-story Mediterranean-Revival style building, built in 1929. It features red clay tile roofs, embossed wall ornamentations, and a line of archways on the second story. The top two floors of the building hold three other residential and commercial units.
Guerra’s remains open during the COVID-19 pandemic, and you can order online for pick-up or delivery. If you stop by to shop in-person, physical distancing protocols are in place with only a set number of people allowed inside at one time. Masks are required!
A woman orders from the deli counter inside Guerra’s, 2016. Photo courtesy of SF Gate.
A few years ago, Guerra’s expanded to a storefront a block away at 345 Taraval Street. As Guerra’s To Go, this outpost sells a variety of Guerra’s signature dishes ready-to-eat. To adapt during the COVID crisis, Guerra’s To Go has also restocked with basic food necessities such as fresh milk, eggs, butter, dried pasta, and canned goods. Visit this page for their online ordering options and temporary hours.
Gold Mirror Restaurant
Wednesday-Sunday, 4:00 PM-8:30 PM
Gold Mirror in July 2020. Tables are set out in front for outdoor dining. Heritage photo.
Originally located in the Fillmore in the 1940s, the Gold Mirror began as a cocktail lounge immersed in the local jazz scene. In the 1950s it moved to its current location at 18th Avenue and Taraval Street, a 1937-era building near the gateway to the Parkside neighborhood. Chef Giuseppe Di Grande bought the Gold Mirror in 1969 and transformed it into a family-style Italian restaurant with traditional recipes and ambiance. His sons Domenico and Roberto Di Grande eventually joined the business, carrying on their father’s traditions in the kitchen while making “the best homemade Tiramisu in town.”
The dining room at the Gold Mirror is set against the backdrop of a medieval castle, with classic Italian music filling the air and warmth from the candle lights. Original signs, doors, and mirrors still inhabit the Gold Mirror from an earlier era.
On April 19, 2004 the restaurant was struck by a runaway truck. Though a shocking event, the accident led to an unusual discovery. As the restaurant was reconstructed, workers uncovered several paintings behind the bar mirrors. Suggestive of 1940s décor and depicting two golden-haired women holding mirrors, the paintings revealed the story behind the business’s illusive name. Having been protected behind the mirror for decades, the paintings were in relatively good condition, and one now hangs in the restaurant as a testament to its past.
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During the COVID-19 crisis, Gold Mirror remains open and has starting offering a rotating selection of family meals for curbside pickup. Under the current city order, they are also able to offer outdoor dining, and they have set up tables along their 18th Avenue side. In addition to dining with them, you can now also purchase Gold Mirror-branded masks by adding one to your takeout order.
Wednesday-Sunday, 5:00 PM – 8:00 PM
Marcello’s at the corner of 31st and Taraval, July 2020, Heritage photo.
Marcello’s is an old school Italian restaurant on the corner of 31st Avenue and Taraval, that has been serving up classic Italian cuisine since 1978. Housed in a building built in 1929, according to San Francisco city directories this spot was formerly home to Shupack’s Fashion Furniture in the 1950s, Villa Capri Tavern in the early 1970s, and then came closest to its current incarnation as Bacchini’s Italian Cusine in the late 1970s. By 1978, “Restaurante Marcello” is listed at the address.
Marcello’s serves unfussy Italian classics like Veal Piccatta, Ravioli Bolognese, and a hearty and garlic-heavy spaghetti alla matriciana. Pre-pandemic, you could enjoy these classics at tables with white tablecloths while sitting on red vinyl chairs, or grab a martini facing the stone-covered bar. Outside, textured stone siding, placed on the building in the decades after it was built, remains on the restaurant’s facade, adding to its stuck-in-time look.
A giant billboard now hangs on the wall on Marcello’s 31st Avenue side, alongside an older neon sign not currently in use. Though the building has been heavily stuccoed over the years, remnants of its 1920s origins can be found in its flat, low-pitched roof, rectangular building shape, and the decorative motifs under the eaves.
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COVID-19 updates on Marcello’s front door, July 2020. Heritage photo.
After taking a brief summer vacation, Marcello’s re-opened on July 17th, 2020 and is now offering takeout and delivery (the latter is only for Sunset District residents) from Wednesday-Sunday from 5:00 PM – 8:00 PM. Give them a call (at the phone number they’ve had since 1978!) at 415-665-1430 to order from their menu of Italian classics.
1. Anna Roth, “Guerra Quality Meats and the glory of the old-school butcher shop,” SF Gate, August 17, 2016. Retrieved from https://www.sfgate.com/food/eatup/article/Guerra-Quality-Meats-and-the-glory-of-the-9146260.php#photo-10757801