Farina Pizzeria, ABQ: a ranty "meh" from a self-professed pizza snob
OK, I'm the first to admit I'm a total snob when it comes to Neapolitan-style pizza. And I try not to hate on any precious snowflake restaurants that need all the good reviews they can get. That said, Farina Pizzeria appears to be printing its own money right now, and a lot of people seem to be saying it's the real deal, so let me go ahead and provide some counterpoint: dude, this is not particularly good pizza.
They're doing plenty of things right, notably a cool beer menu and a respectable, reasonably-priced wine list, plus the vibe is undeniably convivial and fun. That said, every core element of the pizza is lacking:
Sauce - easily the most glaring problem. If you're making a "real" Neapolitan pizza margherita, the sauce isn't even sauce, it should just be a raw puree of top-quality San Marzano tomatoes, flash cooked when you bake your pizza in your hellishly hot oven. Farina is doing some kind of precooked deal with assorted herbs, resulting in dullish flavors that seriously bring down the pie.
Cheese - a few specialty pizze aside, this should be fresh mozzarella, period. Given the cooked sauce, I understand that some asiago added a little brightness, but as far as I was concerned, it didn't belong there. If you're using good mozzarella, all the asiago will do is crowd out the sweetness of the mozzarella.
Crust - nice char, but unpleasantly tough. This could have been from any number of missteps, especially a not-hot-enough oven (as in under 900 or 1000 degrees, fairly likely given that I don't believe they have a wood-burning oven), or too short a rise on the dough, but whatever the reason, the crust here is way too crunchy, with no mitigating tenderness on the inside.
I should also be clear in saying I had a really fun evening at Farina. Had a couple of great, hard-to-find beers, and the pizza is completely edible. Nice toppings, fair prices (Sundays/Mondays you get a pizza margherita and a pint for a cool 10 bucks), cool urban vibe. But I just can't agree with the people who say it's as good as the pizza they've had in Italy, or as good as Pizzeria Bianco. I'd go back to Farina for a fun night with friends, but I'll continue to get my favorite local takeout from Giovanni's, and make my favorite local Neapolitan at home.
510 Central Ave SE, Albuquerque, NM
I would be really sad if people took what I think is your fair, thoughtful, personal assessment of Farina as a reason not to try it. I think folks do have a tendency to skim and may miss your last paragraph. I don't know if Farina is printing their own money but they are working hard in a tough business and I have never anything but good experiences there. Good, attentive, friendly service, a nice wine list, great salads that are big enough to share, fun (if crowded) atmosphere and, as you say, very fair prices. I also happen to like their pizza but I would never compare it to a pizza I would get in Italy and I don't know why anybody would. I can't even compare it to a pizza I would get in San Francisco-- but I like so much of what they're doing at Farina I hope they stick around for a while.
That's totally fair. And like I said, I make it a point to avoid getting all prissy and whiny and ranty about places that are suffocating for lack of business. That said, Farina is awash in business (we were told by the host that an hour wait is commonplace), and I've heard enough swooning affirmations of authenticity (mostly not on CH) that I thought a bit of a corrective in the name of good chow seemed karmically un-horrible.
Incidentally, although we didn't get any salads, I spied several of them across the communal table, and I agree they looked excellent.
+1 that Farina only looks really good in relation to other sit-down pizza places in the city. I was going to ask this question here, but realized it's a whole new topic so I started a new Southwest board thread titled: "What restaurants in Albuquerque are truly good and not just good for Albuquerque?". Any responses would be greatly appreciated.