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SPQR or A16?

In town for dinner on Friday and am jones'n for good Italian. Am torn between the two and have never been to either. Which would you choose? Or are both so good I should just let whatever neighborhood I end up being closest to decide?

Also, I have high standards for italian. I'm a damn good cook myself so quality ingredients and stuff I can't (or don't have the time) to make at home are best.

Thanks!

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  1. They're in the same general neighborhood, so that doesn't really help your decision. At A16, you can make a reservation (so you should call now to see if you can get one for Friday) and at SPQR, you can't and the waits are long, so that might help.

      1. Jasmine brings up good points about the wait vs reservations.

        A16 is Southern Italian and excels at pizzas and wood oven entrees. A16 cures their own meats and has interesting salumi selections.

        SPQR is Roman. It does not have pizza. SPQR makes their own pasta. My best meals at SPQR are small plates and maybe a pasta dish. They have a few entrees but I think that the antipasti section is where they excel.

        SPQR is a smaller space than A16. Both are on the loud side. Both have chef's bars which, if you're 1 person or a party of 2, is the best place in the restaurant to sit.

        At A16, get a pizza that's on the plain side, ask for chile oil, order any meats that are going in the wood oven that night, and order the brentwood corn side order. Order the chocolate budino with sea salt to finish.

        At SPQR, get the tuna conserva appetizer, the sunchoke salad, the fried artichoke, the potatoes, anything with pork, and the panino dessert if it's available.

        I like both and always have. However, I will say that there are a few people I know who actively dislike A16 who love SPQR.

        1. And, there's INCANTO in the Noe Valley.

          1. A16.

            I was at SPQR a few months ago and thought the food was very mediocre. I also sat at the bar where one could watch the chef work.... it kinda grossed me out watching them manipulate the food. At one point, the chef was steaming/toasting/steaming the burger bun - i felt that it was surely not edible after so much handling.

            1. I'd go to A16 rather than wait in line at SPQR, but the only reservations left are on opentable are at 5pm and 10pm.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                Most restaurants do not place their entire reservation inventory on Opentable. I was told by the A16 manager about 2 years ago when I lived in the hood and frequented it more often that they only place about 1/2 of the available reservations on Opentable. I would therefore call first before concluding that those are the only two reservations.

                1. re: Amy G

                  It wouldn't hurt to call, but in my experience, on weekend evenings A16 books up a couple of weeks ahead.

              2. Report back! I went to A16 since I was around the corner and hungry. Had the summer vegetable soup with tiny spicy pork meatballs. Absolutely delicious. My only complaint was there was not enough of the yummy broth. The soup was chock full of fresh chickpeas, potatoes, tomatoes, green beans, and corn. The slightly spicy meatballs were a lovely counterpoint to the sweetness of the veggies.

                For entree I went with the cavatelli with zuccini, squash blossoms, grana padano and calabrian chiles. Absolutely delicious as well. Homemade pasta, tiny sweet zuccini and blossoms, really delightful.

                I'm back in town on Friday and now I can't decide if I should go back for one of those amazing looking pizzas or try someplace new. ah, choices....

                1 Reply
                1. re: mimi29

                  Thanks for the report

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                  A16
                  2355 Chestnut St., San Francisco, CA 94123

                2. I just went to A16 with a friend last Sunday and could not believe this was the restaurant receiving so many raves! It was highly mediocre at best---had the burrata(good, but Ubunto's was SO much better!), a pepper app(thought would be red peppers, but were small tasteless chiles), a green bean side(so boring!), a good pizza(pomodoro)and a pasta with octopus and beans, which was underwhelming overall...I must have ordered poorly, but still!!!???

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Trumpetguy

                    A16's food is very simple. It's common for people to be underwhelmed.

                    1. re: Trumpetguy

                      I wholeheartedly agree with Trumpetguy about A16. Pizza was nothing spectacular, the lamb mixed roast was a tad dry and mostly flavorless. The wine recommendation did not pare well with the food at all. Resting on its laurels, I would say.

                      On the other hand, I've found SPQR to offer solid, tasty, handmade food. Plus, the ambiance is a lot more low-key and the waitstaff less frantic. These are not in the same general neighborhood (SPQR is in Fillmore, A16 is on Chestnut smack dab in the Marina).

                      Although personally, for quality Italian, I would pick Perbacco, hands-down.

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                      Perbacco
                      230 California St, San Francisco, CA 94111