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A16 is it me?

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chowpiggy Jul 23, 2007 09:17 PM

Am I the only one that has had a bad experience at A16? I am willing go back and try it again but am having hard time after my dinner there. I had dinner with 4 other hounds and all of us came away with a bad taste in our mouth. The pizza was burnt, dry and had very little flavor. The salasd were tiny and slightly brown. the three shared entrees were bland.The Burrata was the only redeaming factor in the food section. The person who ordered the wine is very knowedable about italian wine so it was not about lack of palate.Our first bottle of wine was corked and the waiter tried to argue with us, when he finally brought another bottle it to was off. The waiter was not apologetic nor very friendly from the beginning. Is this just an off night and I should go back? Or have others had the same experience?

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  1. l
    luckygrlllll RE: chowpiggy Jul 24, 2007 04:32 AM

    A16 is next on my list for italian restaurants to try, but after reading your post, I am reluctant. Take a look at my Delfina review....I think it is possible when restaurants become too popular and over hyped in this city, they go downhill. Ive had this experience at several top rated restaurants over the past few months, and I am really getting fed up dropping 100-150 per meal not to mention wasted calories on terrible food.

    1. laaronson RE: chowpiggy Jul 24, 2007 07:44 AM

      it's a big bummer your pizza was disappointing and your waiter gave you a hard time about the wine- both surprising as well.

      If you are willing to give it another try (and I'd recommend you do) but are a bit gun shy, you might consider a stop at the bar w/one other person for an early (eg: to assure a seat or short wait for a bar seat, 6 pm or prior on a weeknight) or late (eg: after 9 pm again on a weeknight) demi meal - order up a couple of pizzas and some wine - definitely a very affordable/low risk way to try what I think is A16's best offerings.

      I do think the salad portions can be small (albeit very very tasty most of the time) and personally, have never been wowed by most of the entrees. I go for the pizza, the salumi, the burrata (if I can't buy it myself; now that i know where to buy it, it's less of a reason to trek there), the meatballs (Mondays only), the gnocchi (not a big portion but very good) and to learn something new about a wonderful S. Italian wine. I used to go for the tuna appetizer but not as much of a fan since they changed the setup some time ago (to mushy polenta...maybe it's changed again).

      3 Replies
      1. re: laaronson
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        SteveG RE: laaronson Jul 24, 2007 11:34 AM

        Where do you get your burrata?

        The best we've found recently was Bryan's market in Laurel Village, which had Gioia last Thursday that had been flown in the same day. I'll have to ask if that is their standard shipment day and if they plan to carry Gioia on a regular basis.

        Rainbow Market and AG Ferari carry other brands and the freshness seems more variable.

        1. re: SteveG
          Emily Hope RE: SteveG Jul 25, 2007 10:29 AM

          Actually, one of the last couple of times I was in Rainbow (on a Thursday), they had gotten in a shipment of Gioia burrata that day, and the cheese person said that they would be from now on (haven't been back to check on this, though...). Cowgirl also gets their burrata in on Thursdays (although it's not sure to be on the shelf until Friday morning, I think...), so maybe that's the standard ship day for Gioia.

          1. re: SteveG
            laaronson RE: SteveG Jul 25, 2007 05:57 PM

            Bryan's does get it regularly (and on a schedule, so you can know when it is freshest) as does Cowgirl Creamery at the Ferry Building. I think they both get it 2x/week and the price is $12-$13/lb.

        2. Robert Lauriston RE: chowpiggy Jul 24, 2007 08:34 AM

          Scorched pizza and sometimes bland entrees come straight out of the Neapolitan tradition, so that's as expected. Slightly brown salad, that's bad unless it was one of those variegated chicories or lettuces that just look that way--did it taste off?

          It's not uncommon to get two corked bottles of the same wine. Sometimes a whole case is corked. Typically at A16 I'd expect the sommelier to show up in a situation like that.

          Which night of the week was this?

          7 Replies
          1. re: Robert Lauriston
            gemster RE: Robert Lauriston Jul 24, 2007 10:31 PM

            Bland entrees is actually a tradition?

            I likewise had an average experience at A16. I had no problem with the scorched pizza, but it was quite mushy. The pastas were not very good either - too al dente for me.

            1. re: gemster
              Robert Lauriston RE: gemster Jul 25, 2007 08:38 AM

              Entrees in Italy are often a small, simply cooked piece of meat or fish, often seasoned with nothing but salt.

              A16's pizzas do get soggy sometimes when they put too much on them. That's a departure from the Neapolitan tradition of holding back on the toppings to make sure the crust stays crisp.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston
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                Amy G RE: Robert Lauriston Jul 25, 2007 08:51 AM

                While I agree that some A16's pizzas have made concessions to the American palate with more toppings, e.g. the sausage and the treviso and speck pizza (all of which I think are vastly inferior to the classics they make), Neapolitan pizza is NOT crisp. In fact all the pizzas I ate in Naples during my vacation in the fall of 2006 at Di Matteo, Da Michele, Porta Alba, El Europeo, and Trianon were completely soupy and soggy in the middle. There is no way you can eat a pizza in Naples by picking up a slice, unless you flop over the soggy center on top of the crisper rim, which is why everyone eats them with a fork and knife.

                I took a friend of mine from Naples to A16 who was working in the U.S. for several months about two months ago and he sent back his Margherita because it was too crisp for him and requested that the pizza be kept in the oven for only 90 seconds. We were seated at the bar by the kitchen and he talked to the pizza maker who told my friend that they decided to make the pizzas at A16 slightly crisper than what they experienced in Naples because San Franciscans complained too much about the pizza being soggy when they opened.

                1. re: Amy G
                  Robert Lauriston RE: Amy G Jul 25, 2007 08:53 AM

                  Quite true. But when A16 loads up the toppings the pizza sometimes comes out soggy all the way across.

                2. re: Robert Lauriston
                  Cat Chow RE: Robert Lauriston Jul 26, 2007 10:14 AM

                  That's what I love about Italian cooking...simply cooked but oh so divine! Of course in Italy much of the source material is better than what we generally get here, unless you put in the extra work to find better source ingredients.

                  And yes, it has been my experience that the pizzas in Italy are very light on the toppings...order a quatro stagione and in most places you will get exactly ONE "stagione" ingredient per quatrant on a small pizza!

                  1. re: Cat Chow
                    eatzalot RE: Cat Chow Jul 26, 2007 04:14 PM

                    Cat Chow: "Order a quatro stagione and in most places you will get exactly ONE 'stagione' ingredient per quatrant on a small pizza!"

                    Am I missing something here? I thought that was exactly the definition of a Quattro Stagione (four-seasons) pizza. That's all I've seen in a couple of Bay Area Italian restaurants where they were ordered, and it's also what is shown in such books as Buonassisi's (1982) and James McNair's lavishly illustrated US pizza book (1987).

                    1. re: eatzalot
                      Cat Chow RE: eatzalot Jul 26, 2007 04:51 PM

                      When I mean one, I mean that...ONE. As in ONE slice of mushroom, ONE slice of prosciutto, ONE piece of artichoke and ONE slice of olive (in its appropriate quadrant). The first time I ordered one I was like...did they run out? Then I realized that's the way it was done. Maybe I was hitting the purist places or the cheapie ones! :D

                      The point I was trying to make is that in Italy your pizza is not smothered in toppings, less is more (at least the places I tried out!)

            2. Scott M RE: chowpiggy Jul 24, 2007 10:39 AM

              Its not you. I too had a poor experience at A16. The funghi pizza was loaded with so many oily mushrooms that the crust was a soaked mess. Who uses enoki mushrooms on a pizza? The waitstaff was perfunctory. Overall, it was a "C" experience at best.

              5 Replies
              1. re: Scott M
                chaddict RE: Scott M Jul 24, 2007 11:25 AM

                Enoki? Can't say I ever saw that in Naples...

                1. re: chaddict
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                  Amy G RE: chaddict Jul 24, 2007 11:43 AM

                  I just had the funghi pizza on Sunday. It is not enoki mushrooms, but rather chiodini mushroom. They look similar with the chiodini being a bit similar.

                  1. re: Amy G
                    chaddict RE: Amy G Jul 24, 2007 11:46 AM

                    Ah ha!

                    1. re: chaddict
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                      Amy G RE: chaddict Jul 24, 2007 11:53 AM

                      I meant to say that the chiodini are a bit larger, but they basically look like small nails hence the name.

                      1. re: Amy G
                        Scott M RE: Amy G Jul 24, 2007 11:58 AM

                        Thanks for the clarification on the type of mushrooms. Either way it didn't work for me. There were just so many of them piled on, all else was lost. I even asked the waitress if the mushrooms made the crust soggy and she assured me it was not a problem. She was wrong.

              2. a
                Amy G RE: chowpiggy Jul 24, 2007 11:51 AM

                A16 is a love or hate restaurant. If you did not like it the first time, you are not likely to like the second time. For some, the food is flavorless and service harried. For others, the food is simple and satisfying and the atmosphere fun. I am in the love it camp.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Amy G
                  Robert Lauriston RE: Amy G Jul 24, 2007 01:30 PM

                  Same here, to me it's one of the top three Italian restaurants in SF, the others being Incanto and La Ciccia (not that either is all that similar to A16).

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston
                    gemster RE: Robert Lauriston Jul 24, 2007 10:33 PM

                    I love Incanto and La Ciccia, so I guess they really aren't that similar...

                2. v
                  VirgoBlue RE: chowpiggy Jul 24, 2007 01:17 PM

                  I agree with you, so no, it's not you. I have to say the hostess and the waitstaff were alright, but the food is totally overhyped IMHO. I was so terribly disappointed the last time I went that I have to plans to go back.

                  http://virgoblue.wordpress.com/2007/0...

                  1. c
                    christineb RE: chowpiggy Jul 24, 2007 03:33 PM

                    Chowpiggy,
                    Finally someone on the Chowhounds board had the same experience I have. And I've been twice. I'm not a fan of A16, and I think it's totally overhyped.

                    1. f
                      fdb RE: chowpiggy Jul 24, 2007 06:50 PM

                      Here's what I reported on a previous thread re: my exerience at A16:

                      Thurs(dinner)--I was very glad to grab one of the highly coveted dinner reservations (although too early at 5:30) at A16. I'm sorry to say that I was quite disappointed at this place albeit it seemed to be a favorite on the board. The small dish of olives were overly salty, the beet salad was OK but not great, the Margherita Pizza w/ Daniele Prosciutto was charred on most part of the crust, and the raspberry sorbet and hazelnut gelato weren't impressive after having tasted the best gelato at San Crispino in Rome. But the real nightmare was the Chocolate Budino Tart with sea salt and olive oil, which was probably the worst dessert I 've ever had. I am not a very picky eater but I just don't understand olive oil on dessert. I actually had to rush to the ladies room to prevent a disaster on my plate. But it wouldn't do A16 justice if I didn't mention that the Squid Ink Pasta w/ Zucchini Flowers were really fabulous! I would go back for the pasta, and maybe try other dishes but definitely the chocolate tart no more!

                      1. m
                        Martha Copeland RE: chowpiggy Jul 24, 2007 07:28 PM

                        WE only go Monday nights for meatball Monday - meatballs are super - otherwise, since we've had a few dinners that were OK but not stellar, well....that's our favorite night.

                        1. Porthos RE: chowpiggy Jul 24, 2007 07:31 PM

                          I think it has to do with expectations. I agree that it's overhyped but I like the place. I'm in the neither hate it or love it camp I guess. I've been about 8 times or so and the first 4-5 times, I kept expecting the pizza to be the best I've ever had or the pasta to be perfect or the burrata to be unlike any other burrata I've ever had. And none of those things happened.

                          I took a step back and realized that yes indeed, everything was very good and I shouldn't expect it to be the "the best ever". Burrata, as long as it's fresh, is always good (except when you eat an entire ball by yourself...it's kinda heavy). The pizza is also excellent but not my hands down favorite ever. Sometimes the crust is perfectly slightly charred, sometimes it's a boderline soggy. It's a handmade product and it's understandable. And I've had many great pasta's there (one with peashoots and shrimp) but also a couple of duds (most notably the maccheroni with tasteless lentils).

                          Service has always been gracious though and the owner or manager has even stopped by and comped us dessert for no good reason at all.

                          If you do give it a shot again, try the treviso (treviso, speck, red onions, garlic, mozzarella, grana padano, oregano). There's no way that thing is coming to you tasteless. It does tend to be crispier since there's no tomato sauce though.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Porthos
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                            chowpiggy RE: Porthos Jul 24, 2007 10:40 PM

                            Thank you for all your replies. It is nice to know I am not the only one with a bad experience. However I do try to give resturants two tries just to be sure. I tend to like simple food done well so I will try again, now I have some insite on what to order. well see
                            Re: the wine it was two different types.

                          2. k
                            kresge86 RE: chowpiggy Jul 24, 2007 10:59 PM

                            I also did not enjoy my dining experience at A16. I went to dinner with a group of foodies (an informal supper club), and we all thought it was "okay" but nothing special. Plus, we had extremely rushed and poor service from beginning to end (with the exception of the neighboring wait person, who came and helped us at one point). Our pizzas were soggy, some of the sides were poorly executed, and the entrees were generally good, but not great. All-in-all, a disappointing evening.

                            1. eatzalot RE: chowpiggy Jul 25, 2007 10:11 AM

                              I agree with some other posters here that it is always wise to try an unfamiliar restaurant a few times (and if possible, get to know its ins and outs) before forming an opinion of it. (Good professional dining critics that I've read do that.) Barring something really outrageous (which I've seen very rarely).

                              A sobering reminder was another thread about a restaurant I know fairly well. The details are unimportant but the thread accumulated negative anecdotal comments. And some people replied that this was affecting their decisions whether to try the place. Yet the comments, however sincere, are atypical of the experiences of anyone I know (or my own experiences), dining there for years. The comments also don't match a professional review that appeared a little later -- which talked about the place's particular service style and what to expect. (What I meant above by "ins and outs.")

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: eatzalot
                                Robert Lauriston RE: eatzalot Jul 25, 2007 10:17 AM

                                A16's simply not going to appeal to everybody. They take a hardcore approach to the southern Italian tradition and make few compromises to local tastes.

                                To some people's taste the food's oversalted and the pizza's burned.

                                Other people (among them many Italian immigrants) love the exact same food because to their taste the food's not undersalted and the pizza's not undercooked the way it is at many places around here.

                                Of course like anyplace they can have an off night and serve a disappointing meal to someone who in general likes their style, but I don't think that's what most of the negative comments here reflect.

                                1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                  k
                                  kresge86 RE: Robert Lauriston Jul 25, 2007 11:37 AM

                                  I grant that it may have been an off night for A16, but there were 9 "foodies" in our group, and we were pretty much unanimous in our disappointment, so it seems unlikely that it was just a matter of taste. I also think we were all prepared to like the place, and tried hard to like it, even after the somewhat weak first course. However, by the end of the evening, our enthusiasm was worn out. I'd like to give it another try, but there are so many fabulous restaurants in SF, that it's hard to talk yourself into going back to a place (especially one that's hard to get into) after you've had a negative or lukewarm experience.

                                  1. re: kresge86
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                                    Missmoo RE: kresge86 Jul 25, 2007 11:49 AM

                                    Regarding your wine experience: the last time we went (we loved it) I ordered a wine that was recommended and it tasted off to me, but after tasting it the server said it was not. I then realized that it was just an extremely ashy tasting wine (sorry I don't remember what it was) and that it's a flavor I confuse with wine that is corked. I told the server we would keep it then, as it was fine, but he refused and brought my second choice and offered to let us take the first bottle home. So, perhaps the wine wasn't corked? I'm surprised the waiter argued with you however, as that wasn't our experience.

                                    1. re: kresge86
                                      Robert Lauriston RE: kresge86 Jul 25, 2007 02:41 PM

                                      I would not recommend A16 for a party larger than four, unless you go at lunch or get seated in the back patio. Just too noisy.

                                2. w
                                  whiner RE: chowpiggy Jul 25, 2007 10:21 AM

                                  Wow! You are not the first person to post a poor review of A16 on this board. However, I've been a few times -- each time it has been fabulous. We've had extrodinary service and food, including the best pizza and (ricotta) gnochi I've had in SF.

                                  1. s
                                    scenicrec RE: chowpiggy Jul 25, 2007 11:53 AM

                                    It's not you. I like A16, and have had a good experience 80% of the time, but they do falter with the occasional soggy pizza and service that can be aloof.

                                    1. StuartHMB RE: chowpiggy Jul 26, 2007 05:29 PM

                                      My wife and I went for the first time last Sunday. We were coming from the coast, so we were a little late...she dropped me off and then it took her 20 minutes to find parking. Meanwhile, they had given away our table and sat me in the bar area. 5 minutes later, wife still looking for parking, they "had a cancellation" and could move us to the main dining room. After dealing with parking, the first thing we ordered was a glass of the Prossecco. The service was good, even helping us with vegetarian options after learning that the tomato ragu had meat braising in it for hours. For starters, we had the beet salad with house made mustard vinaigrette, which was wonderful...roasted beets, potatoes, toasted almonds and greens. (Little Gem lettuce, for those that want to know.) We also got the Burrata, which I actually thought was a little disappointing. I love Burrata and have had several ones both from Italy and domestic. This one must have been on the older side..it wasn't nice and oozy like it should have been, and didn't really have that nice, rich, slightly tangy flavor. We got a pizza, which yes, was charred in places, but that is how it is supposed to be. Cherry tomatoes and a delicious fresh ricotta. The Ricotta gnocchi where hard to differentiate between potato ones, but they were very good. (These went very well with a Sicilian wine...Benanti?) Dessert we split the chocolate budino with sea salt and olive oil. Quite a dessert experience...the salt really opened up the palate at the end and helped cut the richness of the chocolate. All in all, we were very happy, and thought the prices were very good for what we had.

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