Caffe Trieste

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Caffè Trieste in North Beach

Caffè Trieste is an internationally known chain of four Italian-themed coffeehouses plus one retail store in the San Francisco and Monterey Bay Areas California. Caffè Trieste was opened in 1956 by Giovanni Giotta (aka "Papa Gianni"), who in 1951 had emigrated to the United States from the small fishing town of Rovigno D'Istria, Italy (now part of Croatia). Missing the espresso houses of Trieste, Italy, Giotta opened his own cafe. Caffè Trieste is said to be the first espresso house on the West Coast.[1]


Caffe Trieste sign board.jpg

The original Caffè Trieste in San Francisco's North Beach quickly became popular among the neighborhood's primarily Italian residents. "It was all Italian people," Giotta said of the neighborhood, "But I got the American people to like cappuccino." [2] Papa Gianni Giotta is known as "The Espresso Pioneer", both in Italy and America, earning the label by having brought Espresso and Cappuccino to the West Coast, thus starting the Espresso Movement seen today. The company's Licensing Program promises to open, on a one-by-one, "non cookie-cutter" basis, more Trieste locations in the SF Bay Area, Northern California, Southern California, the Southwest and East Coast areas.

Meeting place for authors and artists[edit]

Jack Hirschman (February 2013)

The Caffè Trieste also becomes a convenient meeting place for Beat movement writers like Lawrence Ferlinghetti (still a regular), Alan Watts, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Richard Brautigan, Bob Kaufman, Gregory Corso, Michael McClure, Kenneth Rexroth and Neeli Cherkovski, who lived in North Beach in the 1950s and 1960s.[3] Jack Hirschman, former Poet Laureate of San Francisco, has also been a regular patron. In addition to other writers and poets, painters such as Peter Le Blanc and Don Moses and photographers Joe Rosenthal (Pulitzer Prize Winner), Jimo Perini and Christopher Felver, other celebrities counting themselves among the Trieste Aficionados include Bill Cosby, Paul Kantner (Jefferson Starship), Liam Mayclem, Joey Reynolds and Mal Sharpe, to name only a few. The Caffe has been featured in several movies, on television, radio, in magazines, and in dozens of photography, tourism and other books, ranging from local to national and international in scope.[4][5] Francis Ford Coppola wrote much of the screenplay for The Godfather while sitting in the Caffè Trieste.[1][6]


1956: Caffè Trieste opens in San Francisco's North Beach.

1965: The Caffè undergoes a mandated partial remodel, and the menu is expanded to include the first use of syrup (Torani Orgeat almond syrup) in chocolate-based espresso coffee drinks, producing Caffè Trieste signature drinks Cioccolata Fantasia and Caffè Fantasia. In the 1980s, Brandy Brandenburger of Torani Syrups and Papa Gianni would further experiment with Torani syrups and create many of the flavored espresso coffee drinks now vastly popular across the United States.

1971: Caffè Trieste opens its first retail store adjacent to it North Beach coffee house location. Most importantly, Papa Gianni and eldest son Gianfranco establish what would become the longest running nusical show in San Francisco, the Caffé Trieste Saturday concert, combining the family members' musical careers and Caffè operation. The Concert would gain much exposure and soon started appearing on television both in the United States and abroad.

1976: Caffè Trieste Annex installs a 1920s era coffee roaster, adds the term "Superb Coffees" to its identity and starts in the roasting and wholesaling business in earnest but on a small scale, with its own proprietary coffee formulas.

1978: Caffè Trieste opens a Sausalito branch and incorporates as Caffè Trieste Incorporated (later known to insiders as "CTI").

1982: CTI establishes Trieste Records and releases its first LP album: "Saturday Live at Caffè Trieste", an outstanding quality, live recording and production in collaboration with Barry Brose of Highland Laboratories/Highland Recording Co. of San Francisco. The album's Executive Producer was Gianni Giotta, its Producer and Co-Engineer was Gianni's younger son Fabio Giotta.

1985: Caffè Trieste Superb Coffees wholesale operation is launched on a larger scale and now includes a small Production Facility for its "hand-crafted" coffees on Mississippi Street, in the Potrero Hill district of San Francisco. The product line starts to evolve further, and experimentation with formulas is ongoing. The Facility will move to much larger quarters across the street in 1993.

1992: A 30-minute documentary video about the Caffè and family titled: "Nostalgia Dei Sensi" is released.

1998: A live concert video is released: "Live at Forest Meadows-The Caffè Trieste Performers", starring Papa Gianni and Gianfranco, with Fabio as accordionist and bandleader.

1998: Papa Gianni appears in A & E's documentary production: "Italians in America" (national broadcast and VHS).

1999: Trieste Records releases the first of three newly slated CD albums, starting with a vocal compilation of Gianfranco Giotta's recordings spanning 35 years and six recording sessions in California (at Highland Laboratories and Golden State Recorders) and Italy (with accordionist/bandleader Mike Corino at Cetra Records) titled "SENZA TE" for Gianfranco's original song included in the album. The mammoth restoration, re-mixing and remastering project produces and renews many professional collaborations, including one with a former Beau Brummels band member, musician/composer Ron Elliott (cover art), also with Barry Brose of Highland Laboratories, and with Leo De Gar Kulka of Golden State Recorders/Sonic Arts. Produced and Co-Engineered by Fabio G. Giotta and Rob Masud. Fabio also appears on acoustic accordion and Cordovox electronic accordion and as bandleader on many of the album's 19 tracks. Other tracks include Jazz greats such as pianist Jimmy Diamond, guitarist Eddie Duran and many other San Francisco area musicians. Trieste Recording Studios set up "Studio 55" at the Potrero Hill Production Facility specifically for this album. The project starts in December 1997 and will include some newly recorded vocal tracks. The album is released in June 1999. In September, 1999, son Gianfranco would suddenly pass away after complications from a prolonged illness.

2001: Caffè Trieste founder Papa Gianni Giotta is officially honored and awarded by the Mayor of the City of Trieste and the President of the Friuli-Venezia-Giulia region of Italy for the Caffè's "Old Country" rooted marketing efforts which result in greatly increased fame and notoriety for the City of Trieste. In Italy, a regional and national television and newspaper media blitz ensues, and Papa Gianni is whisked from one media appearance to another. Later in 2001, Papa Gianni Giotta steps down as President & C.E.O and takes on exclusive duty as Chairman of the Board of Directors, while son Fabio takes over as President and C.E.O. and sister Sonia Giotta-Pantaleo becomes Executive Vice-President.

2002: A two-hour video version of an October 13, 2001, national, live radio broadcast from the flagship North Beach location on "West Coast Live, with Sedge Thompson" is released. It includes appearances by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Herb Gold, Jimo Perini, the Giotta Family, and the morning acoustic mandolin ensemble "Mattinata di Matteo" led by Sheri Mignano Crawford, accordionist and author. The radio broadcast aired a couple of weeks after the 9/11 aerial bombardment of New York City, and the show debuted Ferlinghetti's latest poem on the history of the airplane.

2004: Caffè Trieste becomes a chain, with a branch in Berkeley and two more in San Francisco - one on Market Street (at Gough) near Civic Center and one on New Montgomery Street (at Howard) in the SOMA district. All locations will feature live music, with Papa Gianni doing concerts at multiple locations. Now age 84, Papa Gianni focuses exclusively on seeking candidates for new locations.

2005: Trieste Recording Studios begins experimental recordings at its large, newly built Studio 65 at the company's Potrero Hill Production Facility and executive offices. Papa Gianni appears on XM Radio's "Bob Reynolds Show" in an episode dedicated to notable Italian immigrants.

2006: Caffè Trieste celebrates its 50th anniversary in April and rolls back its prices to 1956 levels, 2006.[7] The August 2006 50th Anniversary Big Bash brings many celebrities and VIPs to the Caffè's stage, including Angela Alioto, Ron Elliott (musician) (of The Beau Brummels), Joey Reynolds (WOR Radio-NYC), and many more, and 1200 people move through the small Caffè in a few hours, while hundreds more celebrate at the block party outside! Papa Gianni, Fabio and Sonia will follow-up with live national radio appearances on the Joey Reynolds Show which include interviews and live vocals, harkening back to the Golden Age of Radio and two of the family's historic, live radio appearances (1953, 2001). This year also marks the start of the Caffe Trieste Thursday Night Concert series for new and re-emerging acts; soon, artists from across the country and overseas inquire about appearing.

2008: Caffè Trieste opens in downtown San Jose, the first location in the South Bay Area.

2009: Caffè Trieste opens in the Piedmont Avenue shopping district of Oakland.

2011: Caffè Trieste opens in historic downtown Monterey.

2014: The new Caffè Trieste Saturday Concert debuts and brings a new tempo, format, and feel to the longest running musical ahow in the City of San Francisco.

June 11, 2016: Giovanni "papa Gianni" Giotta dies at 96.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Caffe Trieste's Influence Percolates Through Area" The Wall Street Journal, February 11, 2010
  2. ^ "50 Years of Art and Coffee" by Cecilia M. Vega, San Francisco Chronicle, April 1, 2006 [1]
  3. ^ Mick Sinclair, San Francisco: A Cultural and Literary History (Signal Books, 2004), page 176
  4. ^ Ira Nowinski with Charles Wehrenberg, Rebecca Solnit, et al., Ira Nowinski's San Francisco, The Bancroft Library/Heyday Books, Berkeley, p.56/57, ISBN 1-59714-040-6
  5. ^ Ira Nowinski with Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Allen Ginsberg, et al., Cafe Society: Photographs and Poetry from San Francisco's North Beach, A Seefood Studios Book, San Francisco 1978, ISBN 0-916860-05-1
  6. ^ "Gianfranco Giotta dies, owner of Caffè Trieste" SF Gate, September 19, 1999
  7. ^ "50 Years of Art and Coffee"

8. Caffè Trieste Incorporated company archive 9. United States Patent & Trademark Office 10. Mignano Crawford, Sheri

External links[edit]

37°47′55″N 122°24′26″W / 37.79872°N 122.40727°W / 37.79872; -122.40727