by Nate Appleman and Shelley Lindgren with Kate Leahy
Since its opening in 2004, A16 in San Francisco has long been celebrated by the public and press. Sommelier Shelley Lindgren's explorative and often enlightening Italian wine list, paired with the rustic style cooking of Nate Appleman, have set a standard for southern Italian cuisine in the United States. Their dedication and love of this often underappreciated region has been translated into a new cookbook: A16 Food + Wine.
A16's unassuming name derives from a highway—"autostrada sedici"—that stretches through the southern Italian countryside from Naples to Canosa in Puglia. It was that guiding road that took Lindgren from one vineyard to another, where she discovered the unique wines that would eventually form the basis of A16's wine list. Lindgren takes us on the same journey in A16 Food + Wine, dissecting each and every part of the southern Italy's wine regions and grapes with textbook precision. From the Trebbianos of Abruzzo to the Falanghinas of Calabria, Lindgren invitingly opens the door to this unfamiliar wine region.
The latter half of the book focuses on the A16's southern Italian cuisine, which Appleman describes as more of a philosophy of cooking rather than a type of food. In this particular area of Italy, which has been historically poorer than its northern counterpart, simple flavors are favored over fancy technique, and ingredients are stretched to their limit—in other words, nothing is wasted.
Readers will find recipes for the restaurant's signature wood-fired Neapolitan pizzas, as well as their hearty ragus and pastas. Recipes for antipasti, meat and fish entrees, and desserts are also included. The recipes are relatively simple for the experienced cook, though Appleman’s dedication to certain ingredients, such as San Marzano tomatoes and bottarga, will require an extra trip to a specialty foods shop.
A16 Food + Wine celebrates the culture as much as the cuisine, whether its in the way Lindgren describes the vineyards of Sardinia or the enthusiasm with which Appleman talks about butchering a pig. Whether it's food or wine, Italophiles will have a hard time putting this one down.
Scallops, Shrimp and Clams in Acqua Pazza
Pair with Greco di Tufo (Campania)
The term acqua pazza—"crazy water"—is catchy, enticing nearly any seafood fan to give it a try. It generally refers to water flavored with garlic, tomato, and olive oil, sometimes with a little heat from a chile, and is often used to cook whole fish. Yet variations abound. We use it to cook an assortment of shellfish for a flavorful, light main course. Serve crusty bread alongside.
¼ cup salt-packed capers, soaked
½ cup small black olives, pitted
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, smashed with the side of a knife
1 teaspoon dried chile flakes
2 cups dry white wine
2 cups juice and a little pulp from 2 (28-ounce) cans San Marzano tomatoes
2 cups water
2 pounds Manila clams, scrubbed and rinsed
1 pound shrimp (16-20), peeled and deveined
1 pound sea scallops
In a food processor, combine the capers and olives and pulse until coarsely blended. Set aside.
In a Dutch oven or other large, heavy-bottomed pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 3 minutes or until it starts to soften. Add the chile flakes and wine and cook for about 10 minutes, or until the wine has evaporated. Stir in the tomato juice and cook for about 5 minutes, or until reduced by half. Add the caper mixture and water and bring to a simmer. The sauce should be the consistency of a thin tomato soup. If it looks more like a thick tomato puree, add a bit more water and taste for seasoning, adding salt if needed.
Add the clams and cover the pot tightly. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until a few of the clams have opened. Uncover, stir in the shrimp and scallops, and continue to cook, uncovered, for 3 to 5 minutes more, or until all of the clams have opened. Pull out and discard any clams that did not open. Taste for seasoning and cautiously adjust with more salt if needed (the capers and olives are salty).
To serve, divide the scallops, shrimp, and clams evenly among warmed wide bowls. Ladle the cooking liquid over the top and finish with a generous drizzle of olive oil. Serve immediately.
Reviewed by Nancy Huang