Shelley Lindgren and Victoria Libin brought their upscale Italian concept A16 to Rockridge last month, infusing a bit of urban charm to the southside of College Avenue.

With a successful original restaurant in SanFrancisco’s Marina district and a Tokyo outlet, Lindgren and Libin’s Oakland outpost has a contemporary and refreshed decor, almost gutting out the previous Garibaldi’s/Hudson restaurant. The white walls offset the dark wood ceiling and trims, giving it almost a California tavern feel.

Rockridge Menu
The menu is customized by Chef Rocky Maselli, who looks to put his own spin to A16′s winning concept of light antipasto, original pastas, wood-fire pizzas, and rustic but limited entrees. When I dined on a weeknight with my friend Jessie, we tried a variety of dishes that felt familiar but a few with a twist. I found the side dishes, or contorno, to be a bit ordinary, but Jessie’s pasta of geoduck clam sugo cavatelli ($12 for the small portion) and my rabbit crespelle (a crepe with cheese, that reminded me of an enchilada, $24) had a lot of flavor.

Side note: When you order an entree from the “Secondi” section, it comes with a choice of one side (or contorno). I got the escarole hearts with my rabbit.

Seventh Circle drink made of rye and campari with a touch of calabrese chili (although I didn't taste the heat)

“Seventh Circle” drink made of rye and campari with a touch of calabrese chili (although I didn’t taste the heat)

One obvious distinction between A16 Rockridge and its city big sister is the Oakland location has a full cocktail program. I tried the “seventh circle” ($9). a sweet drink of rye and campari. I was intrigued by the addition of calabrese chili, but it actually didn’t have much heat, just mostly sweet.

Some of A16 Rockridge’s attempts to shake up the menu left me crying for more of the original. Even though I only visited the San Francisco location just a couple of months ago, I still fell in love with its chocolate budino I had for dessert, a whipped chocolate caramel pudding tart. The Rockridge location has a budino on the menu, but it’s actually a chocolate rum cake with a budino center.

Because I loved the San Francisco’s budino so much, I recommended it to Jessie. But the Rockridge dessert is more chocolate rum cake than budino. I don’t know if Jessie was as thrilled over this version.

The Last Bite
Despite attempts to create its own signature, A16 Rockridge does still carry the same charm and approach to cooking that was established in San Francisco, and that says a lot because it’s not easy transferring that level of success even though it’s just across the bay. Still, having dined at both locations in a short period, I have to give the edge to San Francisco’s Chef Christopher Thompson for the better balance of ingredients in the dishes.

Rating: 2.5 out of 4 camera snaps

2.5snaps

 

 

A16 Rockridge, 5356 College Ave., Oakland. PH: 510.768.8003. Open for dinner daily from 5:30 p.m. (from 5 p.m. Sunday). Reservations, major credit cards accepted. www.a16rockridge.com

A16 on Urbanspoon

Incredible crudo dish of Monterey anchovies ($11) that were plump and lived up to the light style of A16's dish preparation

Incredible crudo dish of Monterey anchovies ($11) that were plump and lived up to the light style of A16′s dish preparation

This kohlrabi salad ($12) should have been called an arugula salad because it had more of the peppery green than the kohlrabi slices. It was huge though.

This kohlrabi salad ($12) should have been called an arugula salad because it had more of the peppery green than the kohlrabi slices. It was huge though.

Some of the changes in the new A16 from the previous restaurant is the installation of this garage door, that on warm nights can be open up to expose that side of the restaurant.

Some of the changes in the new A16 from the previous restaurant is the installation of this garage door, that on warm nights can be open up to expose that side of the restaurant.

Jessie digs into his cavatelle of geoduck clam sugo and cannellini beans. This is the small order for $12 because I feel the small portions are a better value than ordering a large plate for $20 but getting just a tad more pasta from the small plate.

Jessie digs into his cavatelle of geoduck clam sugo and cannellini beans. This is the small order for $12 because I feel the small portions are a better value than ordering a large plate for $20 but getting just a tad more pasta from the small plate.

Rabbit crespelle ($24) is an Italian crepe that was filled with pulled rabbit meat served with currants and cherry tomatoes. The baked cheese on top gave it a nice Italian flair.

Rabbit crespelle ($24) is an Italian crepe that was filled with pulled rabbit meat served with currants and cherry tomatoes. The baked cheese on top gave it a nice Italian flair.

Every pizza restaurant these days seem to be importing these mosaic-tiled ovens from Naples, Italy.

Every pizza restaurant these days seem to be importing these mosaic-tiled ovens from Naples, Italy.

The white walls seem barren, especially since the contemporary artwork doesn't seem to add much color. The color comes in the food, like these side dishes of roasted fennel (left) and escarole hearts (right).

The white walls seem barren, especially since the contemporary artwork doesn’t seem to add much color. The color comes in the food, like these side dishes of roasted fennel (left) and escarole hearts (right).

The chocolate cake budino with rum sauce

The chocolate cake budino with rum sauce

I kept my dessert simple with a scoop of strawberry elderflower sorbetto and a macchiato made with Flying Goat coffee.

I kept my dessert simple with a scoop of strawberry elderflower sorbetto and a macchiato made with Flying Goat coffee.

I do miss the impressive blond wood bar of Garibaldi's/Hudson. A16's bar (in the same location) again showcases the white walls that lead up to the dark wood ceilings.

I do miss the impressive blond wood bar of Garibaldi’s/Hudson. A16′s bar (in the same location) again showcases the white walls that lead up to the dark wood ceilings.

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One Response to Does Oakland’s A16 Live Up to San Francisco Original?

  1. Carolyn Jung says:

    You’re lucky to have another A16 so close by now. I love their pastas. If I had one close to me, I’d be there all the time. ;)

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