A16, Part Deux
When I visited A16 for the first time a few months back, I left the restaurant walking on air. Well, I went back for a second time recently, and I’m pleased to say that I’ve yet to be disappointed.
Andy was back for the holiday, and I knew this would be the place to take him, since he has never been known to say no to pizza or gnocchi. We began the meal with a small serving of marinated olives. They turned out to be the only unexceptional course we ate that night, with one of the three different varieties being too salty and another bitter. Andy ordered the gnocchi (pictured above), which were made with ricotta rather than tomatoes, and simmered in brodo (broth) rather than a traditional red or cream sauce. The brodo was flavored with radicchio, red onions, pancetta and black pepper. “This is the best gnocchi I’ve ever had,” he stated at the table. I tasted it, and he was right. The gnocchi had taken on the smoky flavors of the broth to add even more dimension and depth to the dish. He claimed that he’d never had such a velvety texture.
While Andy was inhaling his handmade gnocchi, I was once again reveling in the amazingness of the maccaronara pasta that I’d had last time. (To see a picture of the fresh pasta, click here.) It was everything it had been the first time — chewy, sweet, earthy, tangy tomato sauce with lots of toothsome chewiness.
To continue on our shameless carbo-loading fest, Andy and I proceeded to order the margherita pizza, A16’s claim to fame. A16 alleges that they have one of only three chefs in America officially licensed to make pizza in the style of Naples, Italy.
The margherita pizza was so wet that I could not keep it together using both of my hands. Rather, I had to fold all of the sides in so that the crushed tomatoes and the drippy inner crust would not entirely fall apart. (Can’t you tell by the picture above?) That being said, the taste of the pizza made up for its messiness: The crushed tomatoes were bright and flavorful, and the cheese was a perfect mellow contrast to the sauce. The crisp but soft edges were dotted with charred patches from the wood-burning oven.
In my experience, I have found A16’s dishes to be far more consistent (and better) than other popular Italian restaurants, such as Delfina and Perbacco (in a recent trip here, I concluded that A16’s handmade pastas are superior). As I’ve mentioned before, Italian pastas can be difficult to butcher, yet they rarely impress me, either. A16 has already made it on my list of twenty favorites around SF, but I have to say that now it has become a contender in my mind for best restaurant of the year, as I can’t stop thinking of excuses to go there again for a guaranteed outstanding meal.