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North Beach’s Italian-language bookstore Libreria Pino moves to striking new home

North Beach’s Italian-language bookstore Libreria Pino moves to striking new home
Libreria Pino owner Joseph Carboni in his store's new North Beach home. Photo credit: Dorothy O'Donnell
By Dorothy O'Donnell - Published on June 14, 2022.

Since opening in North Beach as a pop-up store specializing in Italian language books in 2017, Libreria Pino has outgrown several different locations in the neighborhood. Now, the bookstore’s starting a fresh chapter in bigger digs that will serve as its long-term home. For the past 18 months, owner Joseph Carboni has worked to transform the site of a former bakery at 1501 Grant Avenue into a light and airy haven for Italian literature lovers. The inviting loft-style space features exposed ceiling beams and brick walls, rows of streamlined white bookcases, and sleek chrome and leather seating.


 
Photo credit: Dorothy O'Donnell/Hoodline


Carboni opened an online version of Libreria Pino back in 2011 after his son began attending La Scuola, an Italian immersion school in the city. Tired of paying hefty shipping fees to get Italian books for his boy and himself from Italy, he searched for foreign language bookstores in the U.S. hoping to find more affordable options. He discovered a few, but none with more than a handful of Italian titles. And so, Libreria Pino was born.

“We are, I believe, the only bookstore dedicated to the promotion of Italian language books and literature,” says Carboni, who's still busy unloading boxes of books and organizing his new space.

Before moving to its current location, Libreria Pino spent four years in a small spot on Union Street. Carboni knew it couldn’t accommodate his shop for the long haul and began scouring Craigslist for a roomier place.

“I think I looked at, or heard about, every single retail space in the neighborhood and most of them were a similar size,” he says. “A small space means limited square footage and possibility for how much inventory you can fit.”

He finally found Libreria Pino’s new site in December of 2020. After sketching design plans and getting the green light on his business proposal from the building owners, he was ready to move forward with construction at the beginning of 2021. Thanks to the pandemic, the project took longer than expected. There were delays for everything from permits to architect drawings to parts and supplies. But Carboni tells Hoodline these setbacks actually proved to be a blessing in disguise.

“Everything was on-hold, everybody was staying home,” he explains. “So it was the perfect time, I think, to undergo a construction project. It’s been an amazing journey, one that required a lot of patience. But here we are in June of 2022, and the dream has become a reality.”

Carboni credits generous support from the community and sponsors for helping to bring his vision to life. Through a fundraising campaign, he’s raised money to cover some of his construction costs by selling ceramic tiles that San Francisco artist Colette Crutcher will fashion into a bookshelf-themed mosaic mural sporting the colors of the Italian flag.

Carboni is thrilled to have a larger, more welcoming environment for hosting live events. After being on-hold for two years, Libreria Pino held its first in-person Italian book club meeting last week. The store will also host its first author event with journalist Enrico Deaglio on Wednesday, June 22, at 6 p.m.
 
Photo credit: Dorothy O'Donnell/Hoodline


While the bookstore’s main focus continues to be Italian literature — particularly contemporary works — Carboni notes that with more room, it can also offer more English titles.

“Now that we’re here and have this opportunity in this space, we can be more flexible and see what the neighborhood is looking for,” he says. “Of course, we also want to work with, and be respectful of, all the other existing bookstores in San Francisco and make a positive contribution to the literary landscape. We’re just so excited to be here and to have had so much positive feedback from our new neighbors.”

Libreria Pino, at 1501 Grant Avenue, is open most days from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, go to Libreriapino.com.