Best of the Bay 2012: BEST OLD SCHOOL PANINI

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BEST OLD SCHOOL PANINI

There are places in North Beach that are parodies of themselves: fake replicas of what someone from North Dakota might think a San Francisco Italian restaurant would look like. Too often, the meals these pretenders serve are a tepid farce. Not so with the grilled mozzarella and tomato panini from Mario's Bohemian Cigar Store Cafe. The sandwich's authenticity mirrors that of the small, sometimes crowded restaurant and local hangout itself, which hasn't changed much in the three decades we've been going there. The menu is limited, but the food is excellent, featuring fresh ingredients simply prepared. Take the panini in question: eaten alongside a glass of red or Campari on the rocks, it makes a perfect SF lunch. A nice reminder that everything old and cool hasn't been priced out of town.

566 Columbus, SF. (415) 362-0536