A16 is in my neighborhood, but since the arrival of the chowpup our dining-out experiences have been limited :) Last week, some visiting family insisted that we lunch at A16.
Now let me start this post by assuring the assembled that I AM NOT one of those annoying people who thinks that they can drag their baby/child everywhere and annoy everyone, especially in fine restaurants. As proof, I'll tell you that I recently turned down a Chez Panisse birthday lunch because I just couldn't foist my (darling, perfect, but nevertheless 4-month-old) baby on the other dining patrons. I thought of people coming from out of town, with reservations for months, and their lunch being ruined because my baby had a meltdown. I try to respect the rest of the dining public and only bring the Chowpup to family-friendly establishments.
Well, we live within walking distance of A16, so I thought for sure that I could just bug out with the baby the minute he became difficult, leaving my husband to bring the rest of my lunch home in a doggy bag. I was also prepared to leave the stroller outside the dining area if it proved too tight, and wear the baby in the sling. I try to be accomodating, really!
So we arrived at A16. The hostess acted as if the stroller was an alien spaceship. Mind you, I live in the Marina where strollers are very very thick on the ground. There are babies everywhere in this neighborhood.
My husband, a large and somewhat stern looking man who usually demands respect from service people, asked politely if the hostess thought the stroller would fit at our table (we had a reservation). She shrugged her shoulders and flounced off to get our server without a word! This was 12:30 on a weekday (I wouldn't bring the baby to dinner) -- it's not as if this was a gala evening that we were crashing with our baby.
So we wheeled the stroller back, resolving to remove the offensive item if it did indeed not fit. It fit just fine next to the table, and didn't impede traffic flow in the least.
Our server (female) was hardly any better. When I asked if the prosciutto appetizer with mozzarella and a shaved vegetable salad was enough for a lunch, she said, "well, I don't know." My husband was willign to share his pizza, so I ordered it, not wanting to order too much food with the baby in tow. My father in law, who is hardly what you call shy about asking questions, asked the same thing, and again she said "I don't know"!!!!! He ordered it too, not wanting pizza.
Note on the food: the pizza is fine, but nothing fantastic. The housemade pepperoni was interesting but had an unusual soapy aftertaste. I wonder if this is authentic or just bad???
Anyway, I had to ask the water server to not lean over the baby buggy to fill waters, but he was very gracious and obliged. When I asked the server for lemonade for me (after she kept offering me the winelist) she said they didn't have any. I asked "limonata, then?", and her face fell, and she brought it sulkily.
I will note to you that our baby was SILENT this entire time. He made not one peep. He was asleep for about 80 percent of the time, in my lap and away and completely quiet the rest of the time. He was hardly disruptive.
The prosciutto appetizer had no shaved salad (there was a mistake on the menu, she claimed). It was three toasts, some very good prosciutto, and a lovely blob of oiled fresh mozzarella. Very good --- but why would you have a cheese/meat/bread appetizer when all the main courses (for lunch, anyway) are pizza???? I don't understand. Have your pizza cold, then have your pizza hot? Is that the idea? It didn't make sense. But since I was there mostly for family solidarity rather than the food I ate my good meat and cheese and didn't complain. The other diners at the table thought the pizza was good, but not the life-changing experience that Neapolitan pizza can be. I can make a more flavorful crust at home, I'm sad to say.
At the end of the meal, our server came over and bent down to look at the baby. "Oh he's new" said, unsmiling. I smiled and said that he was 4 months old. "Oh, well he's tiny for his age" she said, and walked away. The rest of us at the table sat there open-mouthed -- it was almost an insult. Also, she doesn't knwo what she's talking about -- we had gone to the doctor the week before and the Chowpup is 90th percentile for height (that means he's tall) and 50th percentile for weight. Hardly tiny!
I won't bring the baby there again -- though most of the sins that people don't like babies in restaurants for (loud screaming child, messy, smelly, clogging traffic, etc) we did not commit! It wasn't my idea to go there with him -- and it turns out my instinct was right.
It's too bad, because they've lost a customer. We do live in the neighborhood, and have non-child dining opportunities in our future. We won't go back there now.
It looks like others have had good non-child dining experiences, though, so for adults-only it might be worth it.
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