When 5:00 PM rolled around Frankie would often say, “Well, somewhere around the world it’s cocktail hour.” While not a coffee drinker, his love of people, life, family, his beloved San Francisco Giants and the City never deterred him from being that consummate host any time of the day.
The grandson of Irish immigrants, Frankie was raised during the Great Depression. He was the first boy and last of five children born to Francis “Frank” Michael Heffernan Sr. and Florence Warren Heffernan. Frankie, like his father before him, loved to tell tales of San Francisco going back to the latter part of the 19th century. Like many Irish immigrants, his family lived in the Mission District of San Francisco.
After the 1906 earthquake, Frank Sr. purchased several theaters, not far from Frankie’s Java House. He purchased The Majestic, The Strand and The Francesca, all featured vaudeville acts with yet to be discovered actors such as Boris Karloff of Frankenstein. Frankie’s grandmother, Mary Heffernan, also owned several San Francisco properties in or near the Mission District where the family was entrenched.
Frankie grew up in the West Portal District of San Francisco. He graduated from St. Cecilia's grammar school and St. Ignatius High School. He then followed in his father's footsteps to attend college at Santa Clara University, not too far from home. Frankie returned home upon completion of college and started his own insurance brokerage firm in 1963, just a few blocks from the Java House.
In 1958, Frankie married Lenore Bertagna, the granddaughter of Italian immigrants whose family had moved from North Beach to the Marina after the earthquake. At the time of the earthquake, Lenore’s maternal grandfather Raffaelo Vannucci had owned a “general store”
Matteucci and Vannucci near the Embarcadero on Front Street. Later he founded the Roma Macaroni Factory located on Francisco Street, not far from the Embarcadero.
Lifelong Giants fans, Frankie and Lenore, were season tickets holders since 1958, which happens to be the year the Giants moved from New York to San Francisco. When the Giants moved from Candlestick to the South Beach District of San Francisco, it was just one more symbolic link to this area and the city he loved.
With nearly 150 years of close family connections to San Francisco, the Embarcadero and this neighborhood, it’s only fitting that we honor Frankie, who passed in 2016, by adding his name to the oldest operating eatery on the Embarcadero.