Riding FiDi

May 8, 2011 § Leave a comment

Ride to and from work? Beautiful day and wanna take the long way home? Or riding around the city on weekends?
Try out this bike ride route through the Financial and maybe discover something new or simply enjoy the ride. Places to stop for refreshment have been listed.



Nice to Meet you Andrew Byrne

May 3, 2011 § Leave a comment

Hi folks,

So I got to know more about Andrew Byrne, the drummer man who rocks out downtown on sunny (and foggy) days with his drumming skills.

Meet Andrew. A Bay Area native, Byrne is originally from South San Francisco. You might have seen him on Powell or Market Street rocking out his drum-set.
Upon getting to know him, what we find is a passionate musician, who’s been playing the drums for 22 years and who “has never let his rock star dream die.”

Andrew Byrne, seeking pro gigs

How do you earn a living?  Drumming is my only source of income at the moment.  This brings much pleasure and self worth to my life.
I’ve seen from other Youtube videos that you play in other spots, where can people find you? What’s your favorite spot?  I also play near powell street, as well as a spot about three blocks closer to the ocean from where you saw me. (Montgomery Bart Station) My favorite spot that I have played so far is in golden gate park near hippy hill.
Besides looking for professional gigs, do you play with bands?  I have a couple of bands in the works but nothing that is established as of yet.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed that one of them will start to see some success soon.
Who do you listen to? Who has most inspired you musically?  I mostly listen to a lot of heavy metal music but also enjoy some prog, as well as some funk fusion stuff.  Some of my favorite drummers that have inspired me over the years are Simon Phillips, Dave Lombardo, Gene Hoglan, Mike Portnoy, and Joey Jordison.
What venue would dream to play?  A sold out Cow Palace would be a life long dream come true.  I’d also really like to play the London Arena.
Outdoors v. indoors? Which do you prefer to play? “Outdoors its a bit more intimate and I can connect with my audience much better.  Indoors with a great sound system and flashy lights is probably a bit more enjoyable for me though.
To hear more of Andrew’s drumming skills, find him on youtube or look back at my previous post.
Rock on!


April 24, 2011 § Leave a comment

Inside his restaurant, where the modern flat screens contrast with an old wooden bar back and a stuffed leopard standing above the bar, 71-year-old Gio enjoys a carbonara pasta with a glass of Negori. While sipping on his colorful Campari, Gin and sweet Vermouth concoction, he took me back in time of San Francisco history.

He is no regular in this restaurant. He owes it its name: Gio’s, an old-school bar restaurant in the heart of the Financial District. Giovanni Costabile is a short man with a thick head of hair, a perfectly trimmed mustache, a mischievous smile and tons of stories to share.

“Very few of those folks are still floating around,” said David Poindexter, a patron of 12 years who discovered Gio’s – and met Gio – “thanks” to his smoking habits, back when it was one of a few places you could smoke in.

“As willie Brown represents the political scene, Gio represents the tradition of San Francisco restaurants, Poindexter said. “Talking with him, it’s like talking to somebody from 40 years ago.”

Gio, as people affectionately call him, has been in the restaurant business ever since he came on vacation to San Francisco from his native country of Mexico. Like any other 17-year-old, he liked the freedom of being away from home. His father agreed for him to stay, in the care of his uncle, if he went to school, which he did.

He first studied English at an adult language school. He then went on to San Francisco State University, where he obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Fine Arts. “I liked to draw and was good at it, so I thought I’d become a graphic artist,” he said.

Meanwhile, it was through friends and acquaintances that Gio got his first job as un underage “bar back” in what is now the Starlight Room at the Sir Francis Drake Hotel. He then became night manager at a Tenderloin steak house.

After his studies, he got a scholarship to study graphic design at the Arts Center in Los Angeles, “but I hated L.A. and I kept coming back up here every time I got the chance,” he said, smiling.

Back in San Francisco, while he had job opportunities in the field of his studies, “it was half the pay from working in a restaurant”. So he stayed in the business that paid, and his next work place was La Strada, a fancy place on Broadway, which then was a “wonderful dining mecca,” he said. Unfortunately, he explained, the topless business started in the North Beach area, transforming the neighborhood forever.

With more restaurant experience and growing connections, he joined Bill Newsom – Gavin’s father – El Cholo, the city’s first upscale Mexican joint. But when Newsom decided to sell, Gio couldn’t buy him out.

His next restaurant venture was Giovanelo’s with pals Nello Piccinini and Joe Piccinini. There Gio worked the bar and two or three years into it, sold his share. “And there are some stories there,” he said in a raspy smoky voice, as if sorting through memories in his head before continuing on.

For a few years, he worked in the footsteps of his grandfather, a metallurgical engineer, working as a trader and later working as coal director for a Japanese company, which sent him to work in Mexico with his wife and daughter. Unfortunately, his wife got into an accident so the family returned to the US so she could have surgery.

Once back in the states, he kept on working in the international trade but eventually, in 1987, he bought with a friend what became Gio’s. He bought his friend’s share and has been here ever since.

While finishing his late lunch, around 3 p.m., Gio took the time to say goodbye to all of his workers as they ended their shift. Most of his staff have been here for a long time, friends from college, former customers and old friends from the business.

“He truly is one of a kind. His wit, his caring attitude toward both patrons and staff is what makes him special,” said Lingel Winters, a lawyer who works a few blocks away and has come here since 1987. Winters met his friends Peter Brown and Bob Brown at Gio’s for an afternoon drink and chat, as they did for a long time.

And “he hired the most beautiful bartenders in San Francisco,” Lingel Winters said as he and his two friends reminisced about the names and hair color of former cocktail waitresses.

Throughout his stories, Gio describes a different era, a male-oriented society where a two-martini lunch was the minimum, where men from all walks of life came to converse and do business deals. “It was bad manners to talk business before drinks,” said Gio with a hint of nostalgia.

But, in the last decade or so, Gio saw the impact of the new technologies on how people interacted. The early years were more fun, he said, there was no cell phones, and real interaction between patrons. And customers were loyal to their hang-out place.

Now people change jobs every few years, they choose different kind of spots. Back in the day, there were no celebrity chefs, maybe a hostess or an ambiance brought people in, he said. “People used the bar as a living room,” Gio explained.

“It is more than a bar, it is a forum for people and ideas. At Gio’s we all walk in the door and we leave where we were behind us. If we were a high-profile attorney we sit here and if we’re a delivery boy we sit on the stool there so when we come in, we’re all friends,” Peter Brown said.

For Poindexter, today’s world is lacking substance and authenticity. He finds it when he comes to Gio’s, in “that the tradition of hospitality (is) encompassed by someone like Gio. He is a loving wonderful man, giving and caring, a great human being.”

On the Fly’s grand opening

April 15, 2011 § Leave a comment

Dozens of people were gathered this afternoon celebrating the grand opening of On The Fly‘s new store, an old-school gentleman boutique expanding to the second level of 1 Embarcadero Center.

The original space, directly underneath on the ground level is going to be custom heaven, taking tailoring to another level offering custom high-end shirt, cufflinks or chairs, while the new upper store features ready-to wear “solutions for the modern gentleman”.

I am due in next week for a tour of the new boutique… Stay tuned.

If you can’t wait for my in-depth report, go check it out, or find them on Facebook. The opening is going until 5 and featuring some single malt scotch tasting for the lucky ones or a shoe shine from A Shine & Co.

Welcome to FiDi!

February 11, 2011 § Leave a comment

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From the distance, the Transamerica Pyramid, surrounded by skyscrapers, stands out in the skyline. At its feet, hundreds of men and women in business attire walk hastily to their work place. On any weekday morning, the sound of high heels tapping and clicking onto the concrete echoes in between the tall buildings. Lines of faces looking down at their smartphones form outside of coffee shops.

The place is vibrant, the energy is fast-paced. Welcome to San Francisco’s Financial District or FiDi as some call it mimicking SoMa’s abbreviation for South of Market. Located in San Francisco’s northeast, “the Financial” borders North Beach, Chinatown, Downtown and South of Market. Its exact boundaries vary according to whom you talk to or whose map you are looking at.

“This is where the money’s at, where bankers work,” said Justin Young, a San Francisco native who grew up in the sunset district. Indeed, as its name suggests, the Financial District is home to major corporations, banks, law and investment firms.

Some big name financial institutions are headquartered here, Bank of the West, Wells Fargo and Charles Schwab to name a few. And foreign financial institutions also have branches in the neighborhood, Bank of Guam, BNP Paribas and Bank of India among others.

For Carol Lee who works in finance at the Embarcadero Center, this part of town is “where all the action happens,” and particularly in the finance world. Its importance as an international financial center is recognized, as some call this place the “Wall Street of the West”.

Part of its history explains how and why it became a financial hub for the region. The Financial District was one the first settled area in San Francisco. With inhabitants came businesses, and with them came banks. The historical neighborhood has numerous reminders of its past and presence prominence.
But it isn’t just headquarters, banks and corporate offices.

The Financial District is a major of artery of the city’s public transportation system. Dozens of bus, tramway and cable car Muni lines go through the area. So it is also a “commuting hub” where people come and go as they complete their work-home commute.

And besides the tall office buildings, the FiDi also houses some condominium buildings offering homeowners and tenants a premium location at the heart of San Francisco. Jim Johnson is one of those residents. He and his wife bought a condo last August at the Millennium Tower on Mission Street. For the Johnsons who live in Fresno during the week, this is a weekend residence. “I absolutely love it! The area is perfect: there is tons to do: restaurants, bars, museums,” and most importantly they can walk everywhere and not use their car.

For the merchants and retailers servicing the neighborhood, this is the place to be. For Jan Kielbowicz, owner of Amadeus Flowers at the Embarcadero, “this is the absolute location, the best neighborhood in the city!” Flowers are luxury goods and in this neighborhood “of highly educated people”, passers-by have the means to spend on flowers. Other districts are dead, but not here he said.

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