A16 for lunch on a Friday. The place was empty when we arrived at 11:30 but was completely packed when we left two hours later. A16 is known as the springboard for Nate Appleman who made this place famous years ago and then took off for New York and proceeded to bash the San Francisco food scene. Appleman strangely went to Chipotle for a bit, and in 2014, he won the Chopped competition. I’ve spent plenty of time in New York, and I have to say they have San Francisco hands down when it comes to food. But remember, there are EIGHT million people in New York City alone, and there are 750,000 people in San Francisco. The fact that San Francisco can sustain such a lively and vibrant food scene with its small population is a feat in itself. Being the top tourist venue in the US helps, too.
We started with a 2007 DiGiovanna Viognier from Sicily ($39). This wine is made from organic grapes in a region not well known for its wine. The wine was light in body with a mineral nose and stony taste. (Stony taste in this instance is a good thing!!) It had relatively high acidity and a short finish. I liked it. My brother said he wouldn’t order it again, so we looked to the advice of the sommelier for the next bottle.
But first, food. We shared a number of plates. Bill and Susie had the Romaine and Chicory Salad with lemon and olive oil. The flavors melded perfectly with a nice, salty addition to the salad dressing. The bitterness of the chicory competed well with the lemon flavors. We had the Roasted Beet Salad with arugula, toasted pine nuts, pickled onion, and ricotta salata. Both Dave and I agree that it is one of the best beet salads we have ever had. We’re both lovers of beets, so we consider ourselves accomplished beet salad eaters. The toast of the pine nuts with the smooth saltiness of the cheese coupled with the tartness of the arugula made this salad perfect for us.
We were also served a full plate of the Pork and Beef Meatballs braised in tomato with basil and grana padano. The meatballs were dry, but what meatballs aren’t. The problem with this dish is that it’s hard to scoop up the delicious sauce with just a meatball. Pasta was needed to make this a really great dish.
While dining, we wondered the origins of our food. It turns out that the A16 highway/freeway in Italy runs from Naples east to Corsica. This is in the southern part of Italy. The menu for lunch was quite limited. We chose a sausage and a mushroom pizza to share with the group. The ‘salsiccia’ had fennel sausage, roasted spring onions, mozzarella, grana padano, garlic and chiles. It was quite tasty, and there was a strong hint of red pepper in the mix. The ‘funghi’ pizza, however, took the prize. It consisted of roasted mushrooms of all sizes, smoked mozzarella, grana padano, garlic, oregano and wild arugula. Our friend, Eric, requested they add pancetta to it. (The waitress asked if he knew what pancetta was. To be honest, she was not the best waitress we’ve ever had and didn’t really seem to care about our dining experience. She was the worst contributor to the meal.) The pancetta was to die for. How do they take little cubes of pancetta and fry them so that the outside is crispy and the inside still pillowy and melt-in-your-mouth?? I MUST figure this one out.
The sommelier recommended a 2007 Fiana Diavellino Montefredane from Petracupa (I have trouble reading Italian wine labels, so I may have this all wrong!!). It was a really nice choice at about the same $39 range. It was a medium bodied wine with a mineral nose and a taste of tobacco and cocoa, strange for a white wine, but it worked. It was low in acid and medium bodied. My brother approved.
The next to the least favorite part of our meal was the fruitflies. They were everywhere, and we spent a lot of time batting them away. This is an ongoing problem in San Francisco restaurants, but this seemed to be a bit more annoying than usual.
Susie has to have chocolate, so we ordered the Chocolate Budino. It’s a chocolate pudding on a chocolate cookie crust, served with coarse sea salt and olive oil. It was truly delicious and satisfied everyone’s sweet tooth.
We all enjoyed a wonderful meal, with the possible exception of less than stellar service and fruitflies. We all plan to go back.
- Innovative Italian Food
- Fresh, In-house preparations
- Mediocre Service
- Difficult Parking