Starting November 17th, San Francisco will be home to a series of events about Italian music, food, cinema, and opera. There will be an opportunity...
Less than a mile from the geographic center of The City, in an area that was once comprised of dirt roads and dairy farms, the Eureka Valley is a typical San Francisco neighborhood displaying an eclectic mix of old and new architecture, people, and history.
Originally settled by Irish, German, and Scandinavian immigrants, the area gradually became a residential suburb with the completion of the Market Street Cable Railway in 1880's, which linked the neighborhood to the Civic Center, business districts, and most importantly, the Ferry Building—the gateway to the San Francisco Bay.
More commonly known today as the Castro District—famed as the epicenter of the Gay Rights Movement of the 1970s—this now upscale tourist area boasts pricey boutiques and outrageous rents. It’s still the traditional gathering place of the LGBT Community, but the former “Gay Ghetto” has transformed itself into a family-friendly destination for people of all orientations. As the neighborhood changed over the decades, a few stalwart residents and businessmen quietly rode the waves of progress, and eventually rose to the level of “beloved” in this ever-transforming niche of the City by the Bay.
For more than forty years, a once unknown little eatery in the center of the neighborhood at Castro and 18th Streets, has been serving the locals, and has now become a landmark: The Sausage Factory, Italian Restaurant and Pizzeria.
Thanks to those original settlers who built distinctive, multi-storied homes for their large families, The Sausage Factory is housed on the ground floor of one of those large residential buildings, which was originally built in 1894. The name of the restaurant is not a provocative double entendre pandering to preferences of those who put the Castro on the world map, but rather, a descriptive designation of the old-fashioned sausage processing enterprise that occupied the location until the 1940s. In the back of the restaurant, one can still see meat racks and massive black iron doors to back rooms where men spent their days smoking sausages.
The enterprise was first opened as a restaurant in 1968 by two local American friends, who owned it for several years and hired Antonio “Tony” Azzolino as cook's assistant, eventually become chef and manager.
When, a few years later, the owners wanted to sell the restaurant, Azzolino came forward to buy the restaurant, and was helped by the owners to acquire it. In 1978, the Sausage Factory, was formally acquired by the Azzolino Family from the Calabria region. They have been operating The Sausage Factory ever since.
“At that time there weren't many restaurant in the area,” says manager Giovanni, who also emigrated many years ago from Calabria. “The Castro was only a residential neighborhood, in the 1970s, before it became the center of the social protest thanks to Harvey Milk, who was a regular costumer of the restaurant.”
The style and the decor of this place has remained the same as it was four decades ago, very familiar and comfortable. The faithful and loyal customers of the Sausage Factory, have always invited the managers to keep the tradition, pointing out any changes that have been realized throughout the years. “The dark wood interior with turn-of-the-century floral wall paper, plastered with antique mirrors and photographs, makes you fell as you are in Grandma's dining room,” said one long-time customer.
The Sausage Factory's staff is part of the tradition and family as well. Four of the servers have worked here for thirty years. Professional and friendly Ray for example, came here as a customer at the very first opening of the restaurant and then started working as waiter, a job he still holds today.
Long time staff members David, Edvin and Oscar, who learned the secrets of Italian cooking from the owner Tony Azzolino, go out every day to buy fresh ingredients for the kitchen. Today there is also a new associate, Raul, who is Tony's brother in law.
The menu is obviously inspired by Southern Italian food, and the most requested dish is the home made Lasagna alla Calabrese, enriched with popular dishes of the Italian-American tradition and favorites of local customers. Though isolated from the main Italian district of San Francisco, The Sausage Factory offers a unique dining experience in a historic atmosphere.