Chef Jason Tuley with his wood-fired pizza oven in the background at Contrada.
On an early Saturday evening in San Francisco’s Cow Hollow neighborhood, people were still making their way to bars and restaurants.
But one place was already bustling and nearly full — Contrada.
It’s easy to see why. The Italian restaurant, which opened in January, is the kind of place that’s easy to go to and easy to like. On that Saturday, when I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant, there were groups of hipster guys, families with toddlers, gal groups, and everything in between. It’s the kind of place you head to when you’re meeting friends for a casual night out or want an old-standby, where you know you’ll leave satisfied.
The long, slender restaurant boasts a walnut bar, antique mirrors and reclaimed wood panels on the walls that sort of look like a Jenga game gone wild. There’s a patio in the back, too, where you can dine al fresco on a nice summer night.
The bar area at the entrance.
Artful reclaimed wood on the walls.
Chef Jason Tuley, late of TBD in San Francisco, and Picco Restaurant and Pizzeria in Larkspur, oversees the kitchen. The pastas are made in-house in the production room downstairs. And the pizzas cooked in the wood-fired Italian oven.
As the saying goes: The more things change, the more they stay the same.
In the case of San Francisco’s A16, that’s a very good thing. The restaurant, which specializes in the cuisine of Campania, has weathered quite a few chef changes over its eight years. But you’d never know it. The narrow restaurant is always packed. And the food is consistently stellar, especially the pizzas and pastas.
That was the case on my most recent visit there last month, when I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant.
Executive Chef Christopher Thompson took over the helm earlier this summer. He also journeyed to Naples this year, where he became a certified pizzaiolo in Neapolitan-style pizza.
Of course, we had to have one of those pies. We opted for the Margherita ($15) with tomato, mozzarella, Grana Padano, basil and a splash of olive oil. The blistered crust was crisp, even holding up well enough in the center to the milky mozzarella that had melted delightfully to become one with the sweet tomato sauce. You can tell the sign of a great crust in that it should have a developed flavor all on its own. This one does. It also had plentiful air bubbles to create a wonderful chewy texture in parts.