Don’t take the location literally. Sure, it’s shoehorned into a dark corner of the deliciously seedy Cobalt Hotel, and occupies a space previously occupied by a series of dubious by-the-slice purveyors, but Pizzeria Farina isn’t your typical hole-in-the-wall pizza joint.
Striking a delicate (and deceptive) balance between high-concept and low maintenance, Farina is a collaboration between Jean-Christophe Poirier — formerly the chef at Campagnolo, just down the street, and before that chef de partie under Iron Chef Rob Feeney at Lumière — and the team behind Gastown’s über-trendy Pourhouse restaurant. Poirier has deftly avoided the city’s “authentic” Neapolitan pizza renaissance by creating his own unique hybrid, melding classic Italian techniques with non-traditional ingredients. Meanwhile, the Pourhouse folks’ fingerprints are all over the small but design-savvy space.
The stark white façade and fire-engine-red door are mirrored in the interior’s bleached hardwood floors, white-painted brick and red mid-century reading lamps, which are suspended from the ceiling. A communal table of patchwork wood dominates the room, leading to the back counter, where a handmade brown paper menu on the wall lists the seven pizzas on offer. That’s right, seven. Décor isn’t Farina’s only stab at minimalism.
The lack of choice is more than made up for by the quality of the pies. By substituting Canadian flour for Naples’ vaunted Caputo “00” flour, Farina’s pizza crusts have extra crunch and bite, avoiding the sometimes floppy, soggy centre of traditional Neapolitan pizze. Often the benchmark of deft pizza-making, the simple Margherita (tomato sauce, mozzarella and fresh basil) is a winner here, with a slightly acidic tomato sauce that plays nicely off the basil’s sweetness. The Funghi eschews tomato sauce altogether, its mushrooms resting on oregano-infused oil and covered with parmesan shavings and arugula. The Calabrese impresses less, its sweet soppressatta overpowered by the earthiness of Niçoise olives. Luckily, the Calabrese’s blandness is nothing a drizzle (or two) of homemade chili oil can’t fix.
The real draw, though, is the Finnochiona, a fennel sausage-laden masterpiece topped with spicy peppers and provolone. Intensely flavourful but still delicate, it’s definitely worth braving the lineups that begin shortly after the red door opens at 5 p.m. As for closing time, that’s a little harder to nail down. Currently, they shut the doors when they run out of dough, usually between 9 and 10 p.m. So go early and often. Prices range from $9-$14. 915 Main St., 604-681-9334.
Image courtesy of Pizzeria Farina.