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San Francisco Bay Area

Goodbye Columbus, So Long U.S.


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Restaurants & Bars San Francisco Bay Area

Goodbye Columbus, So Long U.S.

Zach Georgopoulos | | Oct 8, 2001 03:51 AM

Slowly recovering from Chowing With the Hounds, about 12:30 or so I was feeling a bit peckish. I suppose I could have broken out the left over cheese platter, but I had no bread in the house and felt like something hot anyhow, so I started going over the options. Sunday, bitter gray weather, too little energy, bombing in Afghanistan, what to do, what to do... Ecco! The paper sez it's Columbus Day! That means Italian sausage, soprasetta sandwiches, and lord knows what other goodies! Fire up the ol' Vespa for the occasion (Hmm, tons of smoke; note to self: fire up ol' Vespa more often), and head to North Beach, visions of sausages (grilled, cured and otherwise prepared) dancing in my head, suspended like marionettes from the deft hands of Giopetto-like street vendors, who kindly ask while proferring wine "you like-a mo' sausage?" But it was not to be. Not a single street vendor in sight. Usually they're at Vallejo and Columbus, but all I find there is some sidewalk chalk art (what the h*ll does that have to do with Columbus, or Italian heritage, or anything else for that matter?). Alright, they must be over by Washington Square then. Nope, just a bunch of parked, way too pristine Ferraris (and no Maseratis -- what's hapenned to the pride of the Italian people?). Sniffing about, I remember to tip my cap as I pass by the rather listless Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand and courtesans on the steps of Sts. Peter & Paul (they were clearly disappointed with the food situation as well, or maybe it was the Longshoremen's Precision Drill Team they were reviewing), and into the church playground. Meagre and unappetizing offerings. Some dull grilled chicken, hot dogs, and not a real sausage in sight. Sigh. Well, various restaurants are open, but I can eat at those any time. Panelli Bros. and Molinari are closed, as are Liguria and Danillo. It's the worst Columbus Day ever, and I'm thinking of heading to the Mission when I spot the U.S. Restaurant and figure "I haven't been in since they re-opened, why not now?" One meatball sandwich later I can tell you why not now -- the U.S. has lost more than it's charm in the move, it's lost its flavor and character as well. I used to live off the meatball sandwiches when I was a student, and they just ain't what they used to be -- the tang of cinamon is gone from the sauce and some spice or other (fennel?) was missing from the meatballs themselves. The fries, which used to be among the best in the city, were limp and greasy. No longer do the waitresses memorize your order without the aid of notepads and meet you at the cash register afterward just to recite it all over again (in fact, they weren't even friendly). Like Columbus Day, the U.S. Restaurant has become a casualty of modern times, bereft of tradition and quality. A parody of itself, really. Oh well, I guess you really never can go home...