The popular neighborhood Italian restaurant A16 has long established itself in San Francisco’s Marina District, and now its owners are setting their sights on Oakland – right smack in my Rockridge neighborhood.
I’m excited at the idea of this reputable restaurant – which launched the careers of chefs like Nate Appleman – being so close to home. But while I wait for the East Bay version to open (reportedly sometime in the next two weeks), I decided to check out the mother ship to get an idea of what to expect.
Since opening in 2004, A16 – named after an Italian highway – has been thrilling eaters with its Campania-style dishes and Naples pizzas from the wood-fire oven. The current chef, the young Christopher Thompson, continues to dish out stellar food using fresh ingredients cooked to the right texture.
Sitting at the sizable marble chef’s counter that wraps around the open kitchen, I enjoyed everything I ate, from the fresh and plump Half Moon Bay sardines with pickled fennel ($14) to the signature chocolate budino tart ($9). In between I also had a perfect-for-the-season insalata primavera ($14), or spring salad of snap peas, shaved carrots, turnips, radish, frisee, pea leaves and anchovies.
The only downside I would say to A16’s menu is the portion size of the pasta. The menu allows you to order small or large portions, which sounds ideal if you want to order a small pasta to leave room for an entrée.
When I decided to make my nettle cavatelli with pork heart sugo as my main dish for the night, I ordered the large portion ($21). But when it arrived, I had to check with my waitress to make sure it was the large portion and that she didn’t accidentally order me the small size.
Reassured that it was the large size, I dug in. And even though the portion size seems small for the price, the actual pasta dish was flavorful and well-balanced between al dente cavatelli and the sugo.
The Last Bite
With friendly service, a nice wine list, and fantastic Italian dishes, A16 continues to draw the fans to its Marina neighborhood spot. It was always a bit out of the way for me to give it a try. But now that I’ve finally tasted the menu, I am so looking forward to A16’s arrival in my neighborhood.
A16, 2355 Chestnut St., San Francisco. PH: 415.771.2216. Open daily for dinner, and lunch from Wednesday through Friday. Reservations, major credit cards accepted. www.a16sf.com
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