I had heard about A16 via word of mouth and also from their acclaimed cookbook which I have perused through. The book highlights A16’s pride for being one of the top Southern Italian restaurants in the country. There certainly is not a shortage of fine-dining Italian restaurants in the Mariana, but A16 stands in a class of its own. The name “A16” comes from the highway that cuts across Southern Italy, from Naples to Canosa, Puglia, Going to the Marina felt like a trip in its own right. Looking around at the restaurants, shops, and people confirmed that I was not in the Mission anymore. After arriving, I prepared myself for a culinary journey.
The food at A16 is rustic, yet innovative. In the spirit of Italian home cooked dinners, we had to dine family-style and share our dishes. Grapes are a huge part of Southern Italy’s culture, and the wines of the South are becoming more recognized and appreciated for their complexity and good prices. While I did not order wine, I made sure I still incorporated grapes into my meal. We had grapes in our arugula salad which were prepared two ways: roasted and pickled. I’m not sure if I ever had a roasted OR a pickled grape before, but now I am hooked and plan on recreating this in my own kitchen. This lightly dressed salad was also accompanied with frisee, fried almonds, and pecorino monteporo.
Next we tried a Naples-style pizza, baked to perfection in a wood-fired oven. Mushrooms, smoked mozzarella, grana padano, garlic, oregano, and olive oil were generally laid across this thin-crusted pizza with pillowy edges. What was unusual was that the pizza did not come cut. Instead we were handed special scissors so we could cut the pizza ourselves. Consequently, I cut myself some tasty but oddly shaped pieces of pizza.
Third we shared a bucatini dish, which is like a hollowed out spaghetti, served al dente and complemented with braised halibut, tomato, white wine, black olives, onion, oregano, and parsley. Chewy, saucy, and very flavorful, I was a big fan of this hearty pasta dish.
Full and almost completely satisfied, we finished off with dessert. Being a chocoholic, I had to order the chocolate budino tart topped with sea salt and extra virgin olive oil. EVOO and salt is trendy now because no one can deny that this seemingly unusual combination is delicious.
One last note, dinner at A16 can get noisy with the full room and the waitstaff bustling around trying to check on all the tables. If you too come for lunch, you will find a calm A16 with and attentive service, and you will certainly not feel feel crowded or rushed.