San Francisco Bay Area & The Italian Frontier Past & Present

Part of the early Italian Frontier were the Toscano Hotel and New Buon Gusto Restaurant on Broadway – c.1910 Courtesy of Richard Monaco, J.B. Monaco Collection, San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library

Part of the early Italian Frontier were the Toscano Hotel and New Buon Gusto Restaurant on Broadway – c.1910 Courtesy of Richard Monaco, J.B. Monaco Collection, San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library

The Role of Italian Americans in Preserving the Character of North Beach
The role of Italian Americans in the development and preservation of San Francisco’s Italian character dates back to the earliest days when thousands of Italian immigrants arrived in the Bay Area beginning in the mid 1800s and continuing through the 1940s. 
As a matter of fact, April 18th marked the 109th anniversary of the devastating San Francisco disaster of 1906.  It was a time that signaled headlines like “Earthquake, Fire & the Great Build”.  Just as most of San Francisco was devastated, so was Little Italy.  It was a time when many immigrants lived on or around Telegraph Hill in simple, wooden cottages clinging to a hill overlooking the shoreline and bay that offered many Italians a source of income as laborers, shipbuilders, longshoremen, and fishermen. The great rebuild of San Francisco was in large part due to the talent, tenacity and dedication of our early Italian-Americans of North Beach.  The commitment to rebuild was strong and was led by residents like A.P. Giannini, John Fugazi, and Andrea Sbarboro. A comprehensive list of those people, businesses, and organizations instrumental in creating and preserving the character of North Beach is long and will be left to a future article.  To this day, we still patronize decades-old neighborhood businesses and restaurants like Victoria Pastry, Sotto Mare and the U.S. restaurants, Biordi Art Imports and Cavalli Bookstore.  
Crucial to the physical rebirth of Little Italy was its economic recovery.  Although some of the circumstances have changed over 100 years, it also seems as if many of the same goals have remained the same.  
The Role of Italian Americans in the New Western Frontier
Over 100 years later, the year 2015 brings with it a renewed effort to retain the Italian culture so important to the Bay Area’s development, growth, and prosperity.  Today, in May of 2015, the Bay Area is buzzing with new waves of Italian-American entrepreneurship.  New businesses, new start-ups are mixing in nicely with decades old establishments.  Silicon Valley to the South is thriving.  Italian businessmen make their way to the Bay Area in good number.  One of recent note is Roberto Bonzio’s San Francisco and Silicon Valley tour.  This endeavor is called Italiani di Frontiera (Frontier Italians) which appropriately ties in with those major contributions Italians have made in the Bay Area dating back to before the earthquake, fire, and the great rebuild. 
Mr. Bonzio’s tour began on April 26 in Redwood City and will end in San Francisco on May 4th. Among the places Robert will visit during his time in California are Stanford University, Google in Mountain View, IBM in San Jose, Airbnb, Novedge and Mashape in San Francisco.  
For more information about these events, go to
According to the Italiani di Frontiera website, Frontier Italians is “a storytelling trip about the secrets of Italian talent and also examines some of the obstacles impeding Italian innovators in their own country.  Italiani di Frontiera is on the Internet with a web site, a video channel on YouTube, and pages in social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.  It connects Italian managers abroad and many students and young entrepreneurs all over the country.  Italiani di Frontiera tours Italy with live multimedia conferences and training seminars for managers, hosted by top institutions and companies.”
Italiana di Frontiera describes the current 2015 endeavor as a journey to the West From Web, from Italy to Silicon Valley and back, an experiment in creative and independent journalism. Beginning from meetings with scientists, entrepreneurs and researchers in Silicon Valley several years ago, the project is now supported by the international agency, Reuters. Through stories and interviews, the particular talents of Italian innovation and the understanding of the cultural roots that make California the ideal breeding ground to enhance these qualities.  
Those interested in the relationship between Italy, Silicon Valley and the San Francisco Bay Area may want to acquire a copy of the book, Italiani di Frontiera. Dal West al Web, by Roberto Bonzio.  The book traces the journey of Italians into the West – into the depths of Silicon Valley and back.  The book is expected to be available beginning in April.  
For more information about Italiani di Frontiera, check out the website at 
Roberto has graciously agreed to participate in an interview with L’Italo Americano about his ongoing visit to the San Francisco Bay Area.  Watch for this upcoming article soon!
“How North Beach Came to be Italian”, the role of Italian Americans in preserving San Francisco’s Little Italy, is an illustrated presentation by Catherine Accardi and is available to your organization free of charge.  Originally presented to El Cenacolo at the Italian American Athletic Club in October 2014.   Contact Catherine at caacat@

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