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Biggie Tupac Redux

Spring has sprung – according to the window sign in Francesco’s pizza anyway. I typically look to Francesco’s for these reminders. Valentine’s Day, Thanksgiving, Halloween, Remember To Vote – this is the kind of stuff that slips easily past when you reach a certain age and don’t have a local food establishment there to clue you in. There’s still a particular communal, family-oriented vibe present in Brooklyn that’s lacking in San Francisco. It’s difficult to pin down, but I see it when I stop in Francesco’s to get a slice and small salad to go, and note two older Italian dudes having some pizza and talking about how they invest their money. “I’m getting at least seventy percent of it out of this goddamn country, I’ll tell you that ..” It’s there in the young family of four without time to plan a meal or make a reservation, sitting together and enjoying a casual dinner of just-ordered baked ziti while Frank Sinatra croons on Sirius Radio. It’s there in the fact that this joint is neither highly-touted nor exceptional, but consistent, always-open, and delicious. And it’s there in the fact that this place is far from one of a kind in Brooklyn.

I mean not to disparage my other main city out west; only to compare and contrast. Try getting an Irish Coffee in Brooklyn, for instance – particularly when it isn’t being served at my house or as a St. Patrick’s Day novelty item, in a ridiculous glass with half a can of spray-on whipped cream. Try finding some fresh, cracked Dungeness crab or comparing the Verrazano Bridge to the Golden Gate. Try finding a real hill, for God’s sake, or a view of something other than Manhattan that takes your breath away. Still, there’s something to those friendly, seasonal reminders posted outside the local pizza joint, and to being able to read them without being harassed for change or suspicion of being a Straight White Male.

I’ve noticed recent indications of the two respective cities (well, one city and one borough, technically) spilling over to one another. There’s the emergence of excellent new pizza restaurants in North Beach, and even a few spots where one can grab an average slice to go. Brooklyn has a few places to get a San Francisco Mission-style burrito, but if the Park Slope taqueria I tried the other night is any example, they’re about as close to figuring it out as Michael Jackson is to completing that European concert tour. Amazingly this place gets decent reviews out here. Somebody needs to call San Francisco for a delivery so they at least have a point of reference. Both the Park Slope and San Francisco restaurants see fit to give themselves the name “The Taqueria”, but only the latter lives up to this heady billing.  Perhaps it’s best that certain charms be left to certain cities. Vive la difference, as the French would be well-advised not to say in Brooklyn. There are enough constants in this world anyway… like Spring coming around just a little faster every year.

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