Leading up to our recent trip to Santa Fe, we had a pretty good idea of what we’d encounter: green chilies, sopaipillas, Frito pie, and if we had time, a green chile cheeseburger. Check, check, check and check. However, there was a MAJOR surprise for our last New Mexico meal: pizza! And not just pizza, very good pizza, the kind of pizza that would cause people to reroute, and maybe to reroute again. We owe our oven-baked salvation to a recommendation from Chef Jason Greene of The Grove Cafe & Market, another noble venture located down Central Avenue.
Chef Greene tossed out words like “Pizzeria Bianco” and “Pizzeria Mozza” when describing Farina pizzeria and wine bar. Mozza? Maybe. Bianco? Highly unlikely, but those words certainly piqued our collective interest. Farina will be open two years in October. It’s owned by Stuart Doris and Artichoke Café co-owner Terry Keene. Farina’s located in EDO – East Downtown – an emerging neighborhood that apparently fell on hard times but is bouncing back with boutiques and cafes.
The space previously held a grocery and scooter shop. The ceiling is pressed tin, the walls brick and the front glass. Most people sit at tables, but you’ll also find a snake-shaped bar. The walls host pop part, including an interesting take on Jack Kerouac.
We started with a ceramic skillet of meatballs al forno balsamico ($6), small but juicy meatballs studded with pine nuts and onion that were roasted alongside a single cippolini onion. They were all partially submerged in tangy balsamic sauce.
Pasta e fagioli ($4 cup) amounted to a hearty soup with ridged, al dente pasta tubes, beans, carrots, tomatoes and herbs in a tomato based broth showered with parsley and Parmigiano. The soup appeared with crusty, dip-friendly bread brushed with olive oil.
Farina serves eight different pizzas, plus customizable pizzas with ingredients like roasted New Mexico green chile and roasted artichoke hearts (a nod to the adjacent sister restaurant). However, the true test of a pizzeria is how they execute their Pizza Margherita ($9), a simple pie with tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella and basil.
Chef Richard Winters once again dispelled a long-held myth that good pizza requires a wood-burning oven. He uses a gas deck oven that reaches 800 degrees, leading to a crisp crust that holds up to the toppings. The base sports black spots, but in no way did he burn the pizza. The crust was pliable to the edge, with good coverage from the flavorful tomato sauce and no dry patches.
Our other pizza was the sauce-free Formaggio di Capra ($12). The pizza wasn’t quite as satisfying as the margherita. With only olive oil and cheese to coat the crust, it was a little drier. The toppings were still satisfying, with discs of tangy molten goat cheese, shaved scallions, whispy leeks and crusty oven-blasted bits of salty pancetta.
We added a local Marble Brewery Red Ale, since on Sundays, you can order a margherita pizza and pint for only $1 more than normal. That’s a no brainer.
Fiona Chandra (Gourmet Pigs), Esther Tseng (e*starLA ) and I had to drop Matthew Kang (Mattatouille) at the Albuquerque AMTRAK station, so we didn’t’ get a chance to try the butterscotch budino (sounds familiar). Maybe next time. Of course visits to Albuquerque are so infrequent that “next time” may take another 15 years, which made our find all the more satisfying.
July 22, 2010 at 7:39 PM
It was definitely the most unexpected find in NM, right?
Even compared to chicos! Great pizza in ABQ, who woulda thunk?
July 22, 2010 at 10:52 AM
It was delicious pizza, indeed.
July 21, 2010 at 5:35 PM
Funny that you put this review up before any of the other Santa Fe ones. What a terrific pizza place. I will come here as often as I can, and hopefully not every 15 years. LA needs a good pizza place like this!
July 21, 2010 at 5:38 PM
Mattatouile, what can I say, Farina was more inspiring than most of our other meals, which was a major surprise. Glad you were able to share the experience in an equally surprising manner.
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July 20, 2010 at 1:19 AM
[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jo and Drunk N High Review, Drunk N High Review. Drunk N High Review said: RT @MyLastBite: (would love the Formaggio di Capra!) @foodgps: Farina, surprisingly good pizza in Albuquerque…really http://su.pr/68MANl […]
July 19, 2010 at 3:20 PM
This looks like a place I will have to visit on my travels. I am glad that your are willing to share all of the great things that are out there. I would have never found them otherwise.