North Beach and Chinatown lift forks for Noodlefest 2010

Plus, pasta pennings from San Francisco's past

Pasta + community building = your Sunday just got booked

I do love me some noodles. As do we all -- just ask the cooks carving them from a solid, gyro like block of pasta at the Seattle Chinese restaurant I once blissfully attended, or the happy fettuccine eaters at the sidewalk cafes on Columbus Avenue. The world would be a better place if we could all put down our weapons and pick up our forks and spoons.

Which is roughly what is happening at this weekend’s Noodlefest 2010 (Sun/2). Sure, the days of armed warfare between North Beach and Chinatown may be safely behind us (were they ever in existence), but the two adjacent neighborhoods rarely come together to plan community happenings. Harken to the candlelit dinner scene in The Lady and the Tramp -- it takes a pasta strand to break the ice, and bring you snout to snout.

But why eat a strand when you can sample six different pasta meals? Entry to Noodlefest gets you a taste of three steaming mountains of Chinatown noodles, and three from North Beach, in addition to live noodle making demonstrations and entertainment of all stripes.

So grab a fork. And to reinforce what this peaceful coexistence of culinary traditions signifies in the history of our city, two long time residents of the neighborhoods, Reverend Norman Fong of the Chinatown Community Development Center, and Dan Macchiarini of the North Beach Merchants’ Association, sent us their memoirs of growing up in the city’s historically Chinese and Italian ‘hoods. If the following tales of downtown SF life in the ‘50s and ‘60s don’t make you feel all noodley inside, then I don’t know what will.

Noodlefest 2010
Sun/2 3-7pm, $15
Grant, between Pacific & Vallejo, SF

The yin and yang of Chinese-Italian relationships
By Reverend Norman Fong, Chinatown Community Development Center

During the 1950s and 1960s,  it wasn’t all fine and dandy growing up in Chinatown and North Beach, although I wouldn’t trade my life experience for anything. In my younger elementary school years, I was a Chinatown kid; all my classmates were Chinese-Americans.

Then I had to cross Washington Square to head to Francisco Jr. High, where I learned about other races.  I remember having a crush on one very cute girl who lived in North Beach but I was too shy to ever ask her out and there weren’t too many cross-cultural relations back then. I also remember some very negative moments when groups of Italian boys would harass me.

One time I was chased by these boys who screamed “let’s get the Chinaman” and they tied me to the fence near St. Peter & Paul and they threw water balloons at me. I went home and I told my mom “I hate italians” and explained what happened.

My mom said life was about balance. “Did you know our landlord is Italian? He only charges us $90 rent and never raised the rent?” I didn’t fully understand at the time just how much that meant, but I do now. Years later, when I was about 18 years old, we were evicted from our home -- by a Chinese landlord who bought the building.

Life is about balance, the Yin and Yang of life. Dan Macchiarini and Kathleen Dooley of the North Beach Merchants Association are friends because we shared the same block at the Chinatown Community Development Center office at 1525 Grant. I bought my Valentine’s Day flowers from Kathleen for my wife a number of years.

This Noodlefest is not just about noodles, spaghetti versus chow mein… It’s about relationships… and building cultural bridges… and “balance.”

Fireworks and noodles
By Dan Macchiarini, North Beach Merchants' Association

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