Farina has been around for a while now, 3 years to be exact, and it has safely established itself as an Italian restaurant that is both genuine and, as I have tasted over the years, reliable. Because for a while, all Auckland had to call 'Italian food' was pizza and pasta, and pretty poor examples of both.
And don't get me wrong, I like pizza a lot. Like the proper kind, with a light crust that is a wee bit chewy, and has been blistered quickly in the furnace of a wood-fire oven. Yeah, that kind of pizza. And there's plenty of that to be had Farina.
To get the most out of Farina's menu, we came prepared to share. The three women of the family, myself, mum and aunty, treated ourselves to a long leisurely lunch one Saturday afternoon. We started off with the polipo (grilled Tasmanian octopus, crushed potatoes, paprika, celery and olives) which was an inexorable favourite. The octopus had been perfectly prepared so that it was tender with just a bit of bite, and the entire dish was tied together by the warmth of paprika mayo lacing the crushed potatoes, salty olive and a the refreshing bite of celery.
This was followed by the Boscaiola pizza, a glorious concoction of mixed mushrooms, mozzarella, spinach, pinenuts and truffle oil. I don't really feel like I need to explain to you why this was good. If you don't believe me I suggest you visit tomorrow.
Long skewers of grilled meat has been Farina's thing in the past but had been reportedly off menu for a while. So when I spied the pollo, a rather long skewer of marinated chicken thigh on a bed of roasted potatoes with tahini red capsicum sauce, I convinced the rest of the group that this is what we needed to order, although this wasn't hard. It's hearty fare, the chicken flavoursome and moist. The crispy potatoes were dolled up with a tangy salsa verde and the tahini red capsicum sauce was warm and nutty.
Farina stumbles ever-so-slightly in the dessert department, in the variety hurdles at least. Tiramisu, we get it, it's nice, but can't you think of something else? I guess don't fix something that ain't broke is the Italians' motto when it comes to dessert. Perusing the small selection of dolce while my mum and aunt watched on in faint distaste (that I should even be considering dessert that is), I was torn between the lemon cake with Chantilly cream and crunchy walnuts, and the pannacotta with almond, crumbled Amaretto biscuit and Disaronno caramel. Maybe next time torta Caprese al limone. I opted for the safe bet and safe it was. Farina's pannacotta is a richer rendition than most, more akin to a creme brûlée, served in a jar topped with that great Italian invention, amaretto biscuits, and slathered with an almost treacly caramel sauce. You could try to finish this one yourself; I failed, and mum and aunt obliged me with their spoons to help polish it off.
I've waxed lyrical about how enjoyable my lunch at Farina was. Flavour is king here. And everything is done right, with care and respect for ingredients. So what are you waiting for?
244 Ponsonby Road