Went to A16 for the first time, and had the mozzarella burrata, biana pizza, orecchiette with octopus, and the penne special (with fresh San Marzano tomato and sardines).
I love various styles of pizzas (and have even experimented making my own at home for years), and believe it or not, have found that Coco500's crust (and you rarely hear about their pizza...) is something I personally prefer slightly over A16's and other currently popular pizza places. Then again, this is all personal preference, and A16's biana was very good. But this should be a different topic.
Now on to the subject of this email, the definition of "al dente."
Both the orecchiette and penne were slightly more than just "to the tooth." I've had pasta in various restaurants and homes for decades, and this was the first time that all the pasta dishes served (two in this case) were cooked to the same consistency -- an ever so subtle "crunch" when you bit into the pasta. So we thought maybe this was the way it was meant to be.
When I bit off half the penne and looked into the cross-section, you could see either a very thin white ring or little white spots in the center of the pasta.
Now the sauces were lovely, so this wasn't that big of a deal. When the waiter asked how everything was, I said the pasta sauces were great, but that the pasta was slightly more than just "al dente." I showed him the cross-section of the pasta, and how there was a white ring in the center.
He went to give the feedback to the cooks, and the response was, "that's the way it's supposed to be. There's supposed to be a thin white ring in the pasta."
We were sitting close enough to see the conversation between the cook and our server, so when our server came back, I kinda knew the response. He said that's that it's supposed to be, and that this is something new he also learned. We weren't that upset, a bit surprised by the answer, but then again, all in all, the sauces were good, so I said OK, no biggie.
Is this definition of "al dente" pasta something that is particular to A16 and their regional style of cooking? Or was the pasta cook just off consistently by a minute that night, and was trying to save face?
Regardless of the "what is al dente" pasta situation, our service was EXCELLENT, and we tipped accordingly.