Above: A16 was opened in 2004 and continues to stand apart even after eight years on the cutting edge. On Saturday night, with the restaurant packed to the gills, the margherita pizza — a litmus test for any Italian restaurant — was exceptional.
One of the things that impressed me the most about my trip to San Francisco last week was the complete and utter across the board professionalism of the food and wine professionals I met with.
Even though you’ll find some of the greatest expressions of American and pseudo-European gastronomy in New York and Los Angeles, there is no U.S. city — in my view — that can rival the confluence of world-class service and informed, intelligent, and thrilling wine and food that you find in San Francisco.
When I visited A16 on Saturday night, I was greeted at the door by wine director and owner Shelley Lindgren, who was holding a tray with three spritzers on it.
In the bustle of this high-profile restaurant at 8 p.m. on a Saturday night, a guest proceeded to brush by her, knocking the tray to the floor and the cherry-red spritzers all over Shelley’s white pants. Without missing a beat, Shelley looked up and smiled at the guest, who was mortified. She told her, “o please don’t worry about it! It’s no problem at all! Please enjoy your dinner.”
There are many reasons why A16 continues to pack them in every night. And this is just one of them.
Above: I was so geeked to taste this rosé from Gaglioppo, a wine that I’d been reading about all summer on Shelley’s Facebook. Friggin’ delicious… and a perfect pairing with my pizza.
I owe so much to Shelley. When she opened A16 back in 2004, she was the first wine director in the U.S. to offer her guests an exclusively southern Italian wine list. At that time, no one thought it could be done. Naysayers would ask: what are you going to do about white wine? what about sparkling wine? where are you going to source all the wine you need? and what about wines for your reserve list?
A lot has changed since then. There is a lot more southern Italian wine available in the U.S. today and more and more producers of fine wines from regions like Campania and Basilicata and Calabria are finding their way to the U.S. market.
But there’s no doubt in my mind that Shelley’s work has had a lot to do with this new wave of southern Italian wine in Italy. And there’s no doubt in my mind that her legacy made it possible for me to create my dream list at Sotto in Los Angeles.
“You know,” I said to her jokingly when she visited our table, “one of the reasons why I’m here is so that I can poach wines from your list.”
“That’s what it’s here for,” she told me, “that’s what it’s all about.”
Chapeau bas, Shelley. In my book, you are a model of food and wine professionalism.
Stay tuned: David Lynch’s new St. Vincent is on deck for tomorrow…
we were drinking (Librandi) Gaglioppo rosato last night – awesome stuff….looks like a perfect combo, Dr. P
Still love A16 after all these years. I remember going there the first time, not knowing anything about any of the wines and Shelly was incredible. Opened my eyes to a world of Italian wines that I didn’t know were out there.
Love A16. LOVE it. You are making me miss SF! The food and wine scene there is so amazing.
I also have high praise for A16. But that photo of the Margherita is a reminder of why “cutting edge” pizza pie is so frustrating. Just look at that huge expanse of blistered and bubbled (due to insufficient topping) dough with sauce. Are we supposed to clap and nod knowingly when we are compromised thusly? I get it … less is more. But in this case, just as in so many other examples of state of the art pizza, the norm falls short. Does it really detract from some idealized notion of a sparingly topped creation to expect that the white and green to be present on each slice?