01/23/2013 06:55 pm ET Updated Jan 26, 2013

Tosca Cafe Saved From Closure By Sean Penn And New York Restaurateurs (PHOTOS)

If recent history has taught us anything, it's that San Francisco is serious about saving its iconic bars. Case in point: North Beach's Tosca Cafe.

Due to an ongoing legal dispute, Tosca Cafe, a San Francisco institution since it opened in 1919, was served with an eviction notice from its landlord, notorious strip club magnate Roger Forbes. However, the bar was saved by a surprise benefactor--a move reportedly spearheaded by actor Sean Penn.


After reading about the possible closure, Penn, a longtime patron of the bar, reportedly phoned restaurateur Ken Friedman, who opened New York hotspot The Spotted Pig with Michelin-starred chef April Bloomfield back in 2004.

Soon after, Friedman and Bloomfield inked a 10-month lease on the bar, with Bloomfield on-hand as executive chef.

"I'm over the moon," said Tosca's longtime owner Jeannette Etheredge to the Chronicle. "It is an iconic place, I'm really happy."

According to the San Francisco Business Times, Friedman and Bloomfield plan to preserve the restaurant as Tosca's with a few updates.

"The plan is to keep it exactly the same. If it ain't broke, don't fix it," Friedman told the Chronicle. "We'll fix what's broke though."

Tosca's history in San Francisco is a storied one. As the third-oldest bar in the city, it has been through the Summer of Love and the Beat movement, and the famed Carol Doda was rumored to have sipped steamed milk with brandy and Kahlua during her breaks from dancing topless at the neighboring Condor Club.

According to San Francisco City Guides, the bar even survived prohibition:

Today’s North Beach institution, Tosca Café, was opened on 19 November 1919 by three Italians returning from World War I who wanted a bar like those they had frequented in Italy. Alas, less than two months later, on 16 January 1920, Prohibition went into effect throughout the United States. How could Tosca fill its customers’ orders?

One of the three partners was dispatched to Healdsburg to make brandy. Espresso machines were imported from Italy--the first in 1921 and a second in 1927. Soon they were up and running, steaming milk for Tosca’s two famous coffee drinks: their House Cappuccino consisting of chocolate, steamed milk, and brandy, and their White Nun with steamed milk, brandy, and Kahlua.

Take a look at some images of Tosca through the years:

Tosca Cafe