Named after a highway that traverses Southern Italy from Naples to Puglia, A16 specializes in Southern Italian-inspired food. Even with several high profile chef changes since their opening in 2004, the food at A16 remains solid and focused, from starters and house made pastas through wood-fired pizzas and entrées.
We started with the dried fava bean purée topped with bitter greens. With a distinct delicious fava flavor, it was similar in style and consistency to hummus. Tasty on its own, we also asked the server for some bread to spread it on:
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For the pasta course, a full order of Bucatini (similar to very thick spaghetti) with olive oil, garlic, shaved bottarga (preserved Mullet fish roe) and Calabrian chiles is definitely representative of Southern Italy. Simple in presentation, the pasta was cooked slightly less than al dente which left some chewiness, but the entire dish was spicy and salty good:
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Like the food, most of the wines are from Southern Italy where Owner/Author/Wine-Director Shelley Lindgren curates one of the most intimidating wine lists in the City. Familiar Italians wines, like Chianti, Super Tuscans and Valpolicella, are all from the northern regions of Italy and hence nowhere to be found. Instead, a seemingly endless list of unfamiliar appellations and grape varietals is presented. But fear not: these wines offer tremendous value and diversity, and are a perfect match for the cuisine. The servers are remarkably knowledgable and conversant, and are always willing to defer to a sommelier. Where else can you compare Aglianico from Northern and Eastern Campania?
After starting with a couple of glasses of white (a Greco di Tufo and a Falanghina), we found this aged 2006 Aglianico wine on the list to pair with the rest of our meal:
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This might be one of the most beautiful dishes being served in San Francisco right now: the duck confit and ricotta cheese crespelle (the Italian version of crêpes). Our server even commented that we may have gotten one of the best looking versions served with thinly shaved raw chioggia beets:
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All entrées are served with choice of a side dish and we chose the red chard with pignolas:
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The Salsiccia pizza was topped with mozzarella and plenty of fennel sausage, to which we added prosciutto and egg. A generous amount of the cured ham was placed on top of the pizza after it came out of the oven:
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A small container containing Calabrian chile is brought to the table to add spice to the pizza:
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Along with their newly Michelin-starred sister restaurant, SPQR, owner Shelly Lindgren and her team must be very busy with A16 branches in Tokyo, Japan and another one coming up next year in Oakland. The East Bay A16 will be their first restaurant with a full bar – this should be worth the BART ride across the bay.