A few moons ago I had the pleasure of visiting Farina for my birthday, wherein I had one of the best dining experience of my life. Farina created a dining experience that balanced authenticity and flavour with impeccable service, humility and a sense of family.
Farina has a split, open kitchen. One side houses shelves brimming with Savoiardi biscuits, Amaretto and Limoncello, where one can spy the chefs preparing entrees and cooking pasta. The other side is adorned by dried pasta and tins of plum tomatoes, where the chef hand stretches pizza by a wood fire oven. The kitchen emanates the enticing scent of basil, cheese and olive oil, with the customers immersed between the two. Seated around communal tables, one naturally feels part of the cooking process.
I got the opportunity to talk to the team behind Farina, who are some of the loveliest and most passionate people I have met. Head chef Sergio comes from an Italian family located in the south of Italy, near Naples. Great cooking runs in his blood; his nonna and mother were fantastic cooks, and his great grandmother owned a restaurant. Sergio originally dreamed about becoming a formula one mechanic, however visiting his uncle in New Zealand changed all that. Sergio decided to stay, helping in his uncle’s restaurants.
Sergio expresses outrage when customers request spaghetti and meatballs and pizza with pineapple. Sergio wants his customers to share in his passion for real Italian food. His attention to detail has helped him cultivate an atmosphere and experience that is authentic, and food that is comforting. You will find no kids menu at Farina; children in Italy grow up eating the same food as their parents, and the same applies here.
When asked what is the key to Farina’s success, Sergio replies that it is simply a good team. Through the open kitchen, I could see the staff were respectful and professional, and, observing the goings-on in the kitchen offered a great source of entertainment for me.
Farina’s menu is inspired by the produce, the season and the people. Sergio stresses that seasonality is paramount. He likes to talk to his suppliers and take inspiration and guidance from what is available. He doesn’t follow fads, but rather focuses on finding the best quality ingredients in season and letting them speak for themselves.
Take their crudo for example. Thinly sliced pieces of raw market fish, marinated with blood orange, capers, fennel, parsley, salt and oil. This dish perfectly balances acidity with the saltiness of the capers, and the tart sweetness of the blood orange.
The beef carpaccio is a moreish, salty tangle of smoked beef dressed in a delicious mixture of poached eggs, Worcestershire, olive oil, garlic, vinegar and anchovies. Leaves of rocket add freshness and it is all dusted in a generous shower of Parmigiano Reggiano.
Dining at Farina, one appreciates their respect to authenticity. The art of making an authentic Neapolitan pizza has become an UNESCO cultural heritage considered worth preserving. Naturally, Farina is certified by the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana. They incorporate traditional cooking techniques and ingredients, right down to slicing the pizza only four ways, and unsurprisingly their pizzas are some of the best to be had in Auckland. A lightly charred, crisp crust borders a full-bodied tomato sauce, adorned with pillows of white mozzarella and fresh basil leaves. It is simple, and impeccably delicious
Whilst leaving Farina, it is hard not to become transfixed by the fridge near the entrance, filled with jars of panna cotta. Although you’re already full, you convince yourself you must have a panna cotta to go. And whilst you eat your panna cotta in bed that night, you find yourself making a call, not to your mother, but to Farina, to make another booking for dinner tomorrow night…
244 Ponsonby Road
Written by Alice Taylor
Photography by Alice Taylor
Edited by May-Lee Wong