A16 Rockridge [Oakland]
Stopped in last night for after-dinner amari, tried a couple of desserts.
Cookie plate, very nice variety of the sort of fancy things you'd get in an upscale Italian bakery (a la the Larkspur Rulli).
Pumpkin fritters were lovely, subtle earthy flavor (this isn't a "pumpkin pie spice" dish). The butterscotch creme anglaise served on the side overpowered the fritters but was delicious on its own.
Went for the first time to the Oakland location. Beautiful space. Friendly, professional service.
Quibble: so many words on the menu I didn't know/hadn't seen that it made ordering a bit of a trial--and seemed like something of an affectation. Of course, one could (I did) ask the server to translate/explain. I'm not asking for a totally English or otherwise dumb-ed down menu. Just more of a nod to those of us not in the cognoscenti.
I had greens, slow cooked egg, ceci, calabrian chills for a starter. The egg, toast, greens, chick peas were delicious. I'm not sure the chili's worked. The greens were a lovely, sharp contrast to the creamy and rich egg, the toast, the earthy chick peas. The chili's took it a notch up in sharpness--and, to my taste, upset the balance a bit.
My husband started w/ the calamari and beens and lovage--he adored every bite (as I did, the bite I tasted).
For mains, we both had pasta. I loved (underscored) the capunti w/ pancetta, chanterelles, cherry tomatoes, and smoked caciocavallo cheese. Wonderful textures and play of flavors. While my half order looked small when it arrived, it was just right (a rich little dish).
My spouse didn't love his buccatini w/ bottarga--he (who loves fish) found it too fishy--and there was maybe not enough textural contrast (he got the full order to boot--I think of it as the "risotto problem," which can apply to pasta as well--a number of bites of sameness--however good--and boredom can set in).
With a glass of wine each, the bill with tax and tip was over $100--don't know why that surprised me. I guess, since neither of us had a "secondi," I was expecting less.
That said, it was a lovely meal; and we'll be back.
Had another excellent meal last night.
An off-menu grilled sardine appetizer, came with a sauce of currants and I don't know what else that I found too sweet, though maybe the problem was that it was undersalted. Didn't really work for me.
Bucatini with bottarga, garlic, hot pepper, and fried bread crumbs and paccheri with baccala, castelvetrano olives, and fried bread crumbs were both fantastic. Definitely some of the best pasta in the East Bay.
Tried the montanara, liked the crunch, but it was more filling than the usual pizza, so probably won't order it again in the context of a five-course dinner. Went very well with the Gragnano-like fizzy red they have by the glass.
Rest of the meal was dishes I've reported on previously or pretty similar, all great.
Place never filled up, which made me wonder if they had a bunch of no-shows, since at 5:30 they were telling walk-ins 7:00. They said they're getting shades for the big garage-door window so they can block the blinding late-afternoon sun.
I forgot to post about another good meal we had last week. We got in shortly before 10, it was still busy but they had some tables, maybe slow because of Labor Day week.
We were there just in time to sit in the dining room and order from the dinner menu. After 10 they switch to the abbreviated late night bar menu, no pastas or secondi. Kitchen closes at 11 (midnight Friday and Saturday).
Started with taralli and fried olives, great snacks with wine.
I had paccheri made with squid ink with a seafood sauce, nicely ad dente, earthy, satisfying. The vegetarian eggplant and ricotta pasta I tasted was also very good.
We ordered the larger size pastas, portions were generous entree size, so just split one entree, a rabbit leg stuffed with pork sausage. Surprisingly big.
I went last week Thursday night for dinner with a friend and enjoyed the experience. The decor is a nice improvement, although I didn't care for the artwork that ran across the dining room. As for the food, we had crudo of anchovies that we loved, the cavatelli with geoduck sugo that was great, and a special rabbit crespelle (crepe) that was very tasty.
The contorno, or side dishes, weren't as good in their supporting roles. A roasted fennel was nice, but the escarole hearts wasn't anything fancy.
Also, they created their own version of the A16 budino from the Marina, which I love. But in the Rockridge location, it's more a chocolate cake with rum sauce and a budino center. Don't feel this really showcases the budino as much as the Marina version.
Overall, I'm happy to see this spot in my neighborhood. Great place to sit and get a pizza or some starters and cocktails at the bar. But I feel so far the menu, which creative, doesn't seem to match the balance I found at the San Francisco location with Chef Christopher Thompson. But I'm willing to give it a few more tries for the convenience (it's hard for me to get out to the Marina).
I went last week as well and was underwhelmed. I found the roasted calamari had a very heavy acidic component and lacked balance. The two pastas I tried were very heavily salted. Since there is no salt or pepper on the table I guess they make up for it by oversalting. I can't imagine anyone asks for more salt.
I skipped the pizza you cut yourself with a pair of scissors and opted for a secondo (the braised pork). It was the best dish of the night. In no hurry to return.
Eat Oakland was there opening night and we did a photo post. We went early so did not really feel the sting of the slow kitchen that seemed to impact people with later reservations. Thought the food, service and space was excellent (what an improvement on the space!!), despite the opening night hiccups.
They're hitting the ground running. First winemaker event tomorrow:
A16 Rockridge welcomes Sicilian winemaker Sebastiano De Bartoli this thursday, June 6th. Along with their iconic marsala wines, which are credited with bringing back the original 'in perpetuum' (traditional style of the marsala production from the late 1800's), we will be pouring De Bartoli's sparkling Grillo 'Terzavia', Zibibbo 'Pietranera', Grillo 'Grappoli del Grillo', Cataratto 'Lucido', Marsala 'La Miccia', Marsala Superiore 10 year, Marsala 'Vecchio Samperi Ventennale' as well as their treasured Bukkuram passito di Pantelleria and Bukkuram Sole d'Agosto' from the island of Pantelleria. We will be offering the different Marsala wines in flights to taste the many styles the De Bartoli family produces and Chef Rocky Maselli will have some Sicilian-inspred dishes to pair alongside these wines throughout the bar and restaurant.
re: Robert Lauriston
I went for the chance to taste all those wines, which was a treat. Highlights were:
- roasted squid with breadcrumbs and I think Zante currants with the Terzavia
- porcini and pioppini (beech mushroom / shimeji) salad
- fresh local anchovies with the La Miccia
- spaghetti with uni, breadcrumbs, almonds, and a hint of hot pepper with the Pietranera (a lovely dry Muscat of Alexandria), really a fantastic dish, they should put this on the regular menu
- ricotta fritters with apricot sauce
- cherries gratinéed with zabaglione
Some minor first-day hiccups but the food was great and the service warm and friendly. Sat at the bar and saw some interesting cocktails being made, including one with fresh myrtle (mirto).
Fried baccalà polpettini ($11) was one of the best croquette-type dishes I've ever had. Creamy, nicely seasoned, crunchy.
Shaved artichoke salad ($12) with shaved fennel, shaved pecorino, and mint was very much like similar dishes I've had in Italy.
Roasted calamari ($14) with fried Corona beans and lovage salsa verde was like nothing I've had before. The beans had a remarkable texture and the lovage added a mysterious hint of Middle Eastern flavor.
Rachetta ("racquet") pizza ($20) was an artichoke and green olive pizza with a ricotta-stuffed calzone-like handle. Think chewier than Una Pizza Napoletana.
Pork and egg polpettone ($24) was a slice of meat loaf with an egg in the middle. Bright flavors.
Roasted fennel ($8) with bottarga and lemon had a suprising touch of chile. Very good.
We were pretty full so just split a Fernet gelato for dessert. Nice idea, I could taste various elements of the amaro that I miss when just drinking it (to me it's medicine for a sore throat or stomachache).
Had a bottle of great Vermintino recommended by the sommelier and a Valle dell'Acate Cerasuolo di Vittoria, finished with an arugula amaro I've never seen before.
Really great meal and a good time. Food's quite similar in style to the SF original but the place is much more spacious and not as loud. This is a great addition to the East Bay Italian scene.