Farina: We review Auckland's newest Italian restaurant
244 Ponsonby Rd, Auckland, New Zealand
Words and photography by Lauren Matilda Matthews from The Kitchen Collective.
What did you want to be when you grew up? My guess would be a Fireman, potentially an Astronaut, or a Beauty Queen. Me? I wanted to be Italian. OK, I know this isn’t possible, but come on, imagine day-in and day-out of being treated to a buffet of masterfully prepared authentic pizza, delicate strands of handmade pasta, infinite amounts of fresh basil, a bounty of cured meats, and don’t even get me started on the cheese. Alas, I’m all grown up now, and I see no sign of magically turning into an Italian, so I guess the next best thing is to search high and low for an authentic eatery to help ward off my constant cravings of fare direct from The Old Country. The search is now over - introducing Farina, the younger sibling of renowned restaurant Toto’s - a slice of Italy right in the heart of Ponsonby.
The newly renovated space has licks of white paint over brick facades, marble floors and subtle hints of the Italian colours throughout. The high banquet tables overlooking one of the two bustling kitchens were occupied, so my lunch date and I sat at the back of the restaurant where the narrow galley opens up into a bright dining room rowed with large sharing tables.
The menu is vast, and travels seamlessly throughout each of the country’s regions. We started with the Arancini balls. Tradition has it, that if risotto was on the cards that evening, the family would intentionally make double just so these delectable bites could be served the next day. And I don’t see any fault in that tradition. The intensely crunchy outer-sheath paired perfectly with the creamy risotto and oozy mozzarella within. Things only got better once the 'Tortelloni' arrived. Delicate handmade parcels filled with a duck farce (stuffing) generously topped with an earthy mushroom ragu, crispy sage leaves and truffle oil. I was wanting to give the chef a high-five, but resisted, for obvious reasons.
The ‘Toto’ pizza arrived on a wooden bored – authentic with its minimal toppings by sight, doesn’t mean a lack of flavour by taste. The peppery rocket, and salty Parma ham held its own against the sweet tomato pulp, and stringy mozzarella. And pizza dough is always a test within itself; this base gets top awards for equitable amounts of crispy verses springy. Perfetto.
I’m still a tad upset that I never grew up to be an Italian, but I can safely say the blow is softened with the arrival of this charming eatery. Now, I can only hope that perhaps in my next life I’ll be an Italian – a girl can dream.
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