Now open for about 2 months, it took more than a couple of years for Farina Pizza to open in the Mission since it was first announced. With retro BART-style tiles affixed to the walls inside and out, the spartan but smart decor is very Italian in almost every aspect. In fact, on the lazy afternoon that we dined there, more Italian than English was spoken by the customers and staff. It would have been easy to close your eyes (or not) and think that you are sitting in a Pizzeria in Italy. The menu is very reasonable with prices ranging from $5 for starters (Per Comenciare) to $25 for grilled entrées.
The red, green and white colors of the Italian flag are prominent in their food. The Insalata Tricolore (arugula, radicchio, endive) with thin shaved Parmesan triangles was a great example of this. The dressing is authentically Italian with a predominant lemon flavor:
The wine list was primarily Italian with higher than normal markups, perhaps to make up for reasonable food prices. But we were in the mood for beer to go with the pizza. The Birra Menabrea from Piemonte (Amber and Blond) fit the bill perfectly:
We ordered the Timballo di Patate all Amalfitana which turned out to be a fried potato-based drum-shaped croquette, cut in half and stuffed with mozzarella cheese and salami. Even with its small size, it was hearty, rich and very satisfying:
The Angioletti di Pasta Fritta con Rucola e Pomodori di Collina was another great example of the Italian flag colors on a plate. The fried pasta was served with arugula, cherry tomatoes and shaved Parmesan cheese:
A closer look at the fried pasta reveals that it was much like cigar-shaped savory beignets (fritters):
We ordered the Capricciosa Pizza that came topped with excellent Italian imported ingredients: San Marzano tomato sauce, fior di latte (cow’s milk) mozzarella, Romano cheese, olives, salami, ham, mushrooms, olive oil and fresh basil. The ingredients are not the only thing brought in from Italy: Antonio Langella, the pizzaiolo from Naples, is a 5th generation pie maker. The pizza was definitely a knife and fork affair where picking up a slice was just not possible. It was a very tasty pizza indeed:
The pizza oven is also from Naples with just enough of an opening to get pizzas in and out. The temperature must be plenty hot because each pizza spent only about 80 seconds in the oven:
There may be some controversy whether the pizza they serve is authentic or not. We have traveled to Italy and eaten the original at one of the oldest pizzerias in Naples, open since 1870: L’ Antica Pizzeria da Michele (sigh … yes, the one featured in Eat, Pray, Love). Pizzas are bigger and spend about 90 seconds in their antique oven. Note these pictures were taken before Lytro cameras existed:
We may not be experts in authentic Neapolitan pizza, but Farina’s version is pretty close to what we ate in Italy. The biggest difference is that way more toppings are offered here: da Michele only provides a Margarita shown below (mozzarella, oil, basil), or a cheese-less version. Ok, and the price — da Michele’s pizzas only cost 4.5 Euros at most (less than $6 at today’s exchange rate):
Does San Francisco need another authentic Neapolitan pizza place in the Mission? With Delfina Pizza, Berretta, Flour and Water, Starbelly, Little Star, Pauline’s and Una Pizza Napoletana not too far away, we can honestly say that there is room for another since what Farina offers is different. Many look for lots of bubbles and char on the crust (not our preference) while others understand that a true Neapolitan pizza is one meant to be “fresh” and eaten with a knife and fork (often referred to “soggy” by many).