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 V.17 No.52 | December 25 - 31, 2008 

Restaurant Review

Farina Pizzeria and Wine Bar

Seriously sexy food

Stewart Dorris, who co-owns Farina, surveys his territory.
Tina Larkin
Stewart Dorris, who co-owns Farina, surveys his territory.

Walking into Farina is not unlike walking into my own ego. It's shiny and rough at the same time, all angles and pragmatic, utilitarian lines. Modern sophistication is the dominating aesthetic. Yet it’s also playfully submissive, as evidenced by a flat screen TV hung above the bar. It's a total dream.

Across Edith from the Artichoke Café, Farina’s proximity to some of the most established fine dining in Albuquerque isn't an accident. Farina is the punked-up younger sibling of jazzy Artichoke Café, and it brings a tantalizingly direct message to the neighborhood: pizza and wine, and all of it damn good. Artichoke Wine Steward Stew Dorris (who describes Farina as “guitars, tits and ass") brings with him some of the class of the Artichoke Café, but he makes sure to dirty up the new place with a little sex appeal.

Farina serves wines by the bottle or glass, minus the stem.
Tina Larkin
Farina serves wines by the bottle or glass, minus the stem.

Inside, dazzling tile work clings to voluptuously jutting walls. In contrast, flat expanses of exposed brick contribute that “Really, I'm so down to Earth” feel. A curvy, guitar-shaped bar subconsciously stirs up thoughts of rock ’n’ roll. Tables are simple, reddish-hued wood flanked by cold, metal-backed chairs. We get glimpses into the busy kitchen, but not a whimper escapes from this hub of activity.

Pizza with attitude
Tina Larkin
Pizza with attitude

Taking in the sights and smells inside Farina transforms hungry patrons into beasts lusting for gratification, satiation and epicurean kink: the defining triumvirate that elevates food to experience. A little teasing is in order. From the small "antipasti" menu, an order of meatballs al forno arrives as plump orbs studded with pine nuts. There's an acidic-sweet balsamic glaze that clings to each forkful so wantonly that more conservative diners could blush. But there's no shame at my table.

When the waitress inquires what my pizza weakness is, I have to choose my poison carefully. You could play it safe here with the fresh-basil-and-tomato Margherita, but a menu of eight inspired pie combinations urges the diner to try something new. Soon hot, hedonistic formaggio della capra arrives to slake my curiosity. Pungent goat cheese is paired with bacony pancetta, bright leeks and scallions. Mouthfuls alternate between the creamy toppings and crisp crust. Nice.

Each pizza delivers perfection. No fumbling around like an enthusiastic amateurjust carefully focused skill. And what must be one hell of an oven. Expertly turned crustspulled from ovens hot enough to singe the hair from reaching armsbecome blistered canvases that flake and succumb to eager teeth. An eggplant topping is almost animalistic in its meatiness, and oyster mushrooms present diners with unholy covetousness. The bianco--with its mozzarella, Parmigiano and ricotta cheeses, truffle oil and crispy sage--is enticing. It's ordered by everyone around me, and the scent of truffles fills the air. If only truffle-flavored oil were the real thing.

Mouthfuls alternate between the creamy toppings and crisp crust. Nice.

Icy and bold, bittersweet coffee granita brings the encounter to a close. Sparkling crystals of strong black coffee pile up beneath faintly sweet whipped cream. I eat every spoonful.

The morning after brings the usual regret. Why, with such a playful wine list filled with Italian beauties, were the wine glasses stemlessuseless? Why did I go to the bottom of that bottle of dolcetto d'Asti? Should I have tried the sweet fennel sausage? Was I a pizza slut for devouring an entire pie in one sitting? Guess I'll have to keep coming back until I'm satisfied with the answers. Likewise, whether you're in the market for a one-night-stand or a steady thing, Farina should fit the bill. It can be a neighborhood joint or a glamorous hangout. It'll tempt you and challenge you, but I doubt it'll let you down.

View Farina Pizzeria & Wine Bar in Alibi Chowtown calendar

The Alibi recommends:

Meatballs al forno

Pizza formaggio della capra

Pizza fungi

Savoring coffee granita while planning late-night exploits

Farina Pizzeria and Wine Bar, 510 Central SE, 243-0130. Hours: Mon-Thu 1 p.m.-10 p.m.; Fri 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Sat 4-11 p.m.; Sun 3-9 p.m. Price range: $9 (pizza Margherita) to $14 (pizza carni curate ). Ambience: Guitars, tits and ass. Credit cards, wine bar.

 

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