As it enters into its fourth year of existence, A16 Rockridge has all the makings of a classic. Certainly, College Avenue has only continued to accrue an ever-greater density of destination eateries — among them Millennium, Ramen Shop, and Smitten Ice Cream — in addition to the older mainstays like Wood Tavern and À Côté that preceded A16's 2013 arrival on the block.
Buzz almost inevitably fades away, but a recent visit found a number of excellent dishes on chef Rocky Maselli's menu to recommend. Here are four.
[jump] Antipasto del Giorno
This one's pretty simple: a salad of salmon mixed with cucumber and onion, two portions of burrata on crostini, and some thin-sliced summer squash. But the result is stunningly harmonious, matching acid with buttery fat and staying true to the season. Sometimes, all it takes is for three relatively common things to be brought together, and they glow like the stones in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
Roasted Monterey Calamari
“It's squid,” you might be thinking. “How good can it really be?” Yes, calamari seldom veers far from the hump of the bell curve, but this particular preparation of it — with fried corona beans, lemon, and lovage-anchovy salsa verde — is not only more original than most, it's lightly fried to perfection.
There are many structural criteria for a good pizza: It should have chew, the toppings shouldn't cause it to become soggy in the center, and its crust should be spotted like the coat of some sort of predatory big cat. A16's testa pizza — “testa” is Italian for head, and roughly equivalent to soppressata — looks like a leopard and the fatty, almost bacon-like testa is not merely salty but gloriously so.
TCHO Chocolate and Amari Tasting ($18 for four)
This is a personal bias, but having a flight of something automatically improves the various offerings of said thing — to say nothing of a dual flight. And amari might be the most civilized way to conclude a meal. A16 has an expansive selection, including a zucca rubarbaro and a Luxardo amaro abano, and they're all bonded with TCHO's dark chocolates, averaging around 67 percent cacao. Aren't you jealous it isn't your job to come up with concepts like this, and test them out endlessly until they're perfect?
A16 Rockridge, 5356 College Ave. 510-768-8003 or a16rockridge.com.