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By Stephanie Rapp
Store Trek is a regular Voice feature profiling new shops and businesses in the neighborhood. This month we introduce Noi, the chic Italian restaurant that replaced Little Italy on 24th Street; Lit'l Lizards, a kids' clothing store with a special fondness for lizards; and Noe Valley's largest yoga studio, Open Door Yoga.
4109 24th Street (at Castro)
Restaurateurs Stefano Coppola and Diego Ragazzo have created a comfortably elegant Italian bistro in the heart of Noe Valley. The co-owners even gave it a local name, Noi (pronounced like the neighborhood), which means "we" in Italian.
Ragazzo is the former owner of Medioevo on Union Street. Coppola, who is also the chef, worked in his family's restaurant on the outskirts of his hometown of Rome, Italy. He describes his cooking as simple and classic. Pasta is housemade, and the food is cooked to order. "We want this to be a place that you could come four nights a week if you don't feel like cooking, or on a special occasion," Coppola says.
Located on 24th above Castro Street in the spot formerly occupied by Little Italy, Noi has been completely remodeled, with dark paneled wood, intimate lighting, and ocher-colored walls.
The bistro was packed with diners within a week of its July 11 opening. Says Ragazzo, "We've been overwhelmed by the response. The shop owners have all come by to introduce themselves. Everyone seems happy with the restaurant."
The menu offers a selection of antipasti, salads, pastas, entrees, and desserts. You can start with prawns sautéed with capers and brandy ($7) or a caeser salad ($5.50). Entrees include lamb chops with mashed potatoes for $16.50, and grilled mahi-mahi with capers, black olives, and asparagus, for $15. Pasta dishes, generous enough for a main course, include gnocchi with mushrooms and black truffles ($10) and spaghetti with clams ($11). Daily specials are also offered.
Although entrees come with sides, you can order vegetables à la carte, including spinach ($3.50) or mashed potatoes ($3).
Home-baked desserts ($5) include tiramisu and a white chocolate lemon tart. For an authentic touch, the gelato is flown in from Italy. And if you want to end your meal like the Italians do, the owners suggest you try the cheese plate ($7.50). Noi serves beer and wine, including several selections by the glass.
The restaurant is open for dinner only, seven nights a week, from 5:30 to 10:30 p.m. (Sundays starting at 5 p.m.). Although Noi reserves a limited number of tables nightly, walk-in tables are also available.
3961A 24th Street (at Noe)
Shopping for children's clothes at Lit'l Lizards is a lot of fun, even if you don't buy anything. "I wanted to create an environment in which kids are welcome," owner Liz Terbolizard says.
The store, which opened Aug. 4, boasts a large play area in the back, complete with a mock kitchen, drawing pads, crayons, and books. Terbolizard even plans to offer story hours, and moms will appreciate the changing table in the bathroom.
Her clothing is "child-friendly," designed for playing in, not just looking pretty. All the pieces are machine-washable, cotton and lycra or acrylic blend, and pre-washed. The colors are vibrant.
Basic shirts cost under $20, such as a brightly striped, long-sleeved top for $16. There are soft floral fleece and corduroy pants ($28) and colorful T-shirts with a gold star ($14). Clothing will be available up to size 8. Most of the designs are Terbolizard's own, but she also carries a small selection of pieces from local designers.
Terbolizard wants boys to have just as much fun selecting clothes as girls; her masculine designs include plush pants with one purple and one green leg. She cuts and sews the fabric in her home on 27th Street, where she works and plays with 4-year-old daughter Kwesi at her side.
Located across from Bell Market, in Little Bean Sprouts' old spot, Lit'l Lizards also stocks gift items, such as a Manhattan Toy Company ladybug puppet ($15), dolls, puzzles, change purses, and hats.
Soon, customers will be able to create their own clothes, selecting from a few basic designs and picking the fabric and size. You will also be able to transfer your child's artwork onto linen, which can be used to make a lampshade or pillow.
And if your little one has dreams of being a mermaid? "I adore costumes," Terbolizard says. To prove it, she offers seashell tops, fairy skirts, and angel wings.
Store hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Sunday.
Open Door Yoga
1500 Castro Street (at 25th)
Noe Valley yogis have a new option for practicing their headstands and sun salutations. Open Door Yoga opened in May, in the space that formerly housed Yoga Shala. New owners and neighborhood locals Lizzie Nichols and Ariel Coyote are excited about the transformation.
Open Door offers an expansive street-level studio with lots of natural light. Lockers, showers, and fluffy towels make before-work practice convenient.
The studio is more than a business to its owners, who both grew up in San Francisco (Nichols lives on Liberty Street and Coyote on 23rd). The partners strive to create "a safe, aesthetic, beautiful experience. Our goal is to be community-oriented, not just for our immediate community, but the community at large," says Coyote, adding, "We chose the name because we wanted to open the door to the experience of yoga."
To that end, the studio offers several classes for beginners, and the owners are happy to explain yoga philosophy and to help you select the right class or teacher. "We're proud of the level of excellence of our teachers," Nichols says.
Students have more than 30 classes per week to choose from, including a Pilates mat class, Mom and Baby Yoga, and an array of meditation classes. Yoga mats, books, and videos are also for sale. Special events in October, celebrating Breast Cancer Awareness Month, include woman-centered classes such as Yoga and Breast Cancer.
Drop-in classes cost $14 (with the second class free for first-time students), but multi-class cards and membership plans are also available. To encourage community-building, Open Door invites you to bring a friend to the first class and pay half-price. For yogists who don't want to attend a structured class, the studio also offers an open practice session, so neighbors can practice together.
Open Door is open "24 hours a day," jokes Coyote. Actually, it's more like 14 hours a day, from 7 a.m. until after the last class at 7:30 p.m. For a complete schedule, log on to www.opendooryoga.com.