Right now through March, A16 Rockridge will be featuring a Monday night supper they call the “Autostrada Dinner Series.” Each month will showcase a different prix fixe dinner menu inspired by the regions of Southern Italy, linked by that month’s selected highway or autostrada. Paying $29 for a three-course meal of this excellence is one mercifully happy moment of exchange.

a16rockridge-60

Chef Rocky Maselli devised the menu from extensive travel and research and biological intuition rooted in Southern Italy. The dishes are prepared with local ingredients and very little reinterpretation for Californians. “I’m minimalist and traditionalist about these things,” explained Maselli. “The dishes are pretty much exactly as you’d find them if you were [in their regions of origin].” And, yes, he insisted, spaghetti with meatballs in Puglia is entirely different from spaghetti with meatballs in Lazio.

photo (1)

The series began this January with A14 Autostrada, highlighting the Puglia, Abruzzo and Marche regions. (The hyperlinks take you to gorgeous Google photo tours, a necessary visual complement to the meal.) The prix fixe for this month began with an Antipasto of Olive all’ Ascolana, fried olives stuffed with braised lamb. Dip them in hot sauce, pop them in your mouth and imagine all the expert grandmother fingers that have pitted, stuffed, and breaded olives exactly like this over the last several centuries — can you think of anything that’s being made today the exact same way it was made hundreds of years ago?

The Primo course this month offers a choice between Orecchiette with cauliflower and pancetta or Chitarrina al Sugo di Polpettine di Carne, an egg pasta with meatballsWe were also able to try the two pastas planned for the February menu: Gnocchi alla’Amatriciana, a pancetta gnocchi with a red chili kick, and Rigatoni alla Carbonara. Literally no one could decide on a favorite.

A16Rockridge.MondayAutostradaDinner

Sampling the different types of pasta side by side allowed us to appreciate texture in a way we’d never thought about before. All of the pastas are imported from their particular native Italian regions, with the exception of a few that are made in house. They are all served perfectly al dente, chewy and magically absorbed with the flavors of the sauce.

Chitarra Pasta

We can also attest to the fabulousness of some of the dishes not featured on the prix fixe menu. The rabbit, water buffalo veal chop and fried garbanzo beans were all unfamiliarly wonderful.

The dessert was an apple and dried fruit strudel or Crescia Fogliata. It’s the flakiness of the pastry, the little bites of pecan brittle and smear of salty caramel and inexplicably dreamy dollop of cream that makes this classic, rustic treat really sing. The rice pudding with persimmons, pomegranates and tangerines was another humble, but secretly stunning, dish. We had no trouble picturing the poached pears with almond cake and mascarpone ice cream being enjoyed in Southern Italy since time immemorial.

The prix fixe Autostrada meal is served on Mondays, with a different menu every month through March. Co-owner and wine director Shelley Lindgren offers an optional wine pairings for $18 to complement the menu.

We are fans of A16. The food wasn’t fussy, it didn’t strain to be provocative, but it surprised us anyway.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.