A16 VS. Perbacco: A No-Nonsense Guide to Two Top Italians in San Francisco

Italian food lovers don’t lack options when it comes to dining out in San Francisco. For this quick guide, we are providing some decisions tools to frame the choice between two up-and-coming, highly ranked (by native Italians) restaurants: Perbacco, in the Financial District, and A16, in the Marina.

Cuisine and Menu

Perbacco offers a Northern Italian menu from the Piemonte region, while A16 focuses on Southern Italian dishes from the region of Campania and Puglia. These distinct cuisines are delivered at both locations with an eye to the highest quality ingredients and flawless execution, although their offerings vary. Pizza lovers will find a wood-burning oven and a menu to tame their cravings at A16, while hearty dishes are an easier find on Perbacco’s menu. Both restaurants offer an extensive selection of appetizers, pastas, entrees and side dishes, and a salumi (cured meats) selection, but while A16 features pizza Perbacco offers a selection of raw fish preparations. A significant selection of dessert is offered at both locations, and it’s worth noticing that Perbacco adds a cheese tasting option to its dessert menu.

Wine List

Be prepared to be impressed by these two restaurants’ wine lists. A16 offers 40 varietals by the glass, and Perbacco tags along with about 30. Both restaurants have categorized their bottle offering by Italian regions making it easy to navigate their list, and they add to their list a selection of California wines. A16’s wine list is significantly more upscale: its menu features an “Old and Rare” section where wines up to $630 are listed, among a selection of $300+ bottles. Perbacco ventures in the high-end wines with only a few selected bottles, capping their offering at $385 as an eye-catching outlier.

Ambiance

The brick entrance at A16 is a prelude to what can be found inside: the low ceilings and homey environment replicate the ambiance found in Italian osterie. The back room opens on a private court, where summer open-air dining is available, although somewhat cramped. This is an ideal place for a dinner with friends or a date, although the main dining room can be loud and table privacy is not very good.

Perbacco’s ambiance is more urban-chic: a brick wall on one side is paired with high ceilings and polished steel accents, making it a nice working dinner environment as well as a date venue. Table privacy might be an issue here too.

Neighborhood and Parking

The Marina is a lively neighborhood offering many options for additional plans. Several wine bars and clubs are a short walk down Chestnut, making A16 a good restaurant choice if dinner is only one stop in a longer night out. The Financial District, on the other hand, has a limited selection of other venues making Perbacco more of a “destination dinner”.

Although neither restaurant has a parking lot, Perbacco offers valet parking for dinner, while A16 leaves you to find your own parking in the Marina. Parking at night in the Financial District is not necessarily an issue, but safety might be, making valet an excellent offer for this location. Parking around Marina especially during the weekend might be quite a challenge. Planning additional time for parking is highly recommended- A16 recommends a parking lot around the block, but no guarantees in terms of securing a spot. If coming from outside the city, Perbacco is within walking distance of the BART station and a few blocks from I80. A16 is served by public transportation by bus only and it is further away from the closest freeway access.

Price Point

Perbacco and A16 price their dishes about the same: $8-$12 for appetizers, $8-$16 for pasta, $20-$25 for entrees, $4-$6 for sides. Although the food menus are definitely comparable in terms of pricing, the real difference comes along in the wine lists, as described above.

Other

Both places offer online reservation through OpenTable.com.

A16 is open for lunch only Wednesday to Friday, and for dinner every night (till 10pm during weekdays, till 11pm on weekends); Perbacco is open from 11:00am Monday to Friday (till 10pm during weekdays and till 11pm on Friday), while on Saturday it opens at 5pm till 11pm. Perbacco is closed on Sunday.

A16 can accommodate private party up to 20 guests in its covered patio, while Perbacco offers two private rooms with capacity 20 and 40, respectively.

Summary

A16 and Perbacco are high-quality, trendy and distinctive Italian restaurants for the gourmet-oriented clientele. Although their price point is quite similar, their offering in terms of menu and wine list, along with ambiance and location, make them very distinct.

Read more about each restaurant on the Italy in SF’s review of each!

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