Marina neighborhood haunt and destination restaurant for authentic Italian cuisine, A16 celebrates it’s 10th anniversary this month.
Specializing in dishes from the southern region, including fresh handmade pasta, Neapolitan pizza and house-cured salumi, the A16 is equally lauded for its wine program thanks to co-owner and award-winning wine director Shelley Lindgren. In keeping with the food’s authenticity, A16 imports specialty products like fior de latte mozzarella and Italian plum tomatoes while Lindgren, for her part, works directly with winemakers in Campania in order to curate an impressive 500-bottle wine list.
Despite no one in her family being part of the hospitality industry, Lindgren found her calling early, working up the ranks in the restaurant industry as everything from busser to hostess in her youth to pay the rent.
“Since I was young, I’ve always been the hospitality person and I’ve really loved that,” she says. “Just entertaining, bringing things to people—I always thought that was really rewarding.”
Working towards a sommelier certificate during her university studies, Lindgren was fascinated by the wine regions of Italy—particularly how, at the time, emphasis was only given to a select few wines. But what about all the others? This curiosity and sense of discovery continue to drive the award-winning sommelier, which is why diners at A16 shouldn’t be surprised to see a wine list full of names they might not recognize.
But the real love affair with Italy began on her honeymoon, when she and her husband Greg decided to take a ferry from Cannes to Sardinia.
“Things just started clicking,” she says of the simple, no-nonsense way the locals would pair food with wine.
Feeling like they’d just witnessed a key lesson in living and enjoying life, it wasn’t long before they began having serious discussions about opening a restaurant back in the states where they could emulate the Italian tradition.
“In Italy they take time with their meals, and there’s a lot more conversation,” says Lindgren, in contrast to the way Americans often rush through meals.
Europeans tend to have a better sense of moderation as well, indulging under the right circumstances—like a celebration—but generally tending toward smaller portions of higher quality, Lindgren says.
“I feel like I didn’t really understand how to eat pasta until I went to Italy,” she says. “Here, it’s much bigger portions, there’s more sauce.”
Maintaining the integrity of ingredients is a philosophy that first brought Lindgren and co-owner Victoria Libin together. Since opening A16, they have partnered with organizations like Slow Food, Roots of Change and Outstanding in the Field.
Since first starting out a decade ago, A16 has added other restaurants to the family, including SPQR and A16 Rockridge. Reminiscing about the early days, when she was acting as host, manager and pretty much everything else as the need arose, Lindgren stresses the importance of education and support for her staff. Through A16 she has sponsored more than 20 team members to take their sommelier exams; at the restaurant everyone is deeply passionate about what they do.
When asked what might be next after the big anniversary, Lindgren revealed that a former co-worker now based in New Zealand invited her out for their restaurant week—and, for once, she feels like she just might be able to take the time off.