A 16, A Southern Italian Gem in Rockridge, Oakland
A 16 has been open for about 5 months now and is a sister restaurant to the popular restaurant with the same name in San Francisco’s Marina district. The restaurant took over the old Hudsons/Garibaldi’s space on College Avenue. Like their Marina counterpart, the restaurant focuses on Southern Italian Campania region food. A 16 is a highway in Italy that runs from Naples in Campania to Canosa in Puglia.
Unlike their Marina relative, A 16 Rockridge has a liquor license allowing it a full bar and cocktail service to go along with their menu.
Chef Rocky Maselli has put together a wonderful menu that focuses on pasta and gourmet pizzas, with lots of little extras worth exploring on the menu. Everything we had tonight was absolutely first rate. No dish disappointed. The fresh handmade pasta was the highlight.
Before beginning our meal we started out with two cocktails from A 16′s creative cocktail menu. I had the Hemingway Negroni, which was served over a couple of giant ice cubes in an attractive oversized tumbler. It was made with papa pilar rum and was delicious.
After cocktails we ordered the roasted beets and heirloom tomato salad. The salad was complemented with ricotta and generously dressed with olive oil. The beets, tomatoes and cheese, went well together and it was a refreshing end of a Bay Area summer salad.
After we finished the salad, our main dishes arrived. For our main dishes we decided to share the capunti — pancetta, chanterelles, cherry tomato, smoked caciocavallo pasta and the montanara rockridge pizza.
All three of these dishes tonight were recommendations of the very knowledgeable bartenders who took care of us at the bar. Mrsth and I always prefer sitting at the bar over a table and find that the bartenders frequently are the most knowledgable of a restaurant’s service staff. Tonight, especially, they did not disappoint.
The capunti pasta was my favorite dish of the evening. The taste of the caciocavallo cheese in the pasta gave it a wonderful smokey taste. It was a rich, full flavored rewarding dish. The montanara pizza, named for the local neighborhood, was also splendid. We added prosciutto and arugula to the burrata (again at the bartender’s recommendation) on the pizza and it complemented it perfectly as did the Scrimshaw Pilsner I ordered with it.
Finally for dessert we decided on the fried apple turnovers which came alongside a rich caramel honey type sauce. Before serving us our turnovers, the staff brought us over a complementary plate of Italian cookies to enjoy. The three turnovers were the perfect amount of sweet to end our evening.
We didn’t have any wine with our meal, choosing to stick to more cocktails and a beer with the pizza. The restaurant does have a wonderfully full wine list though. You can also bring your own bottle (with corkage charge). The menu said that they would waive corkage charge per bottle brought with each bottle bought from their list. They offered both tastes and full pours of wines by the glass.
The ambience of the restaurant was very nice. The bar is large and oversized with plenty of room on a large marble slab. The restaurant is open and airy, and once the sun went down and they opened the shades, a rich, warm evening sunset sunlight filled the restaurant.
The service for our meal could not have been better. Two bartenders managed the bar, and even with a full restaurant, were able to give us the highest quality of service. The recommendations of our bartenders were all absolutely spot on. Meals were promptly delivered and dishes quickly removed. They allowed us to sample taste some of the liquors used in the cocktails when deciding on which drinks to order. I usually find that I get better service at the bar, which is one of the reasons why I prefer the bar over a table, and it was especially true tonight.
We were both delighted tonight with our A 16 experience and definitely will be back to this neighborhood gem to try even more dishes. The only downside to tonight was that they didn’t have a television set at the bar and so we had to rely on our cell phones to keep track of the A’s/Tigers American League Divisional Series deciding game. The restaurant also doesn’t have wifi service and cell service in the restaurant was spotty.
Lack of a TV and good cell service, however, are probably a bonus for many.