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Farina Alto – Albuquerque, New Mexico

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Farina Alto for outstanding pizza and so much more in Albuquerque’s Northeast Heights

Much thought, deliberation and market research usually goes into the naming of a business, but every once in a while, one linguistic aspect or another isn’t fully explored to the nth degree. Take for example  Chevrolet’s problems marketing the Nova in Latin America where the term “no va” means “it won’t go” in Spanish. Even though the Nova sold quite well, the car’s name wasn’t without irony and humor. Worse, a slogan for Frank Perdue chicken, “it takes a strong man to make a tender chicken,” translated (also in Spanish) as the equivalent of “it takes a sexually aroused man to make a chicken affectionate.”

Obviously, the “Alto” portion of Farina Alto Pizzeria & Wine Bar in Albuquerque is intended to accentuate the “Heights” where the restaurant is located. Alto, after all, translates in both Italian and in Spanish to “high” or “ high up” as in the foothills. Lesser known is the fact that “alto” also translates in Spanish to “stop.” That’s what you’ll read in Spain on octagonal red signs that in America read “stop.” So, Farina Alto not only translates to Farina at the Heights, but perhaps not intentionally to “Farina. Stop!”. Could it be the folks who named Farina Alto knew just what they were doing because stopping at Farina for lunch or dinner is a great idea?

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Farina Alto is one sprawling edifice

Farina Alto is the younger, more cosmopolitan sibling of Farina Pizzeria, the East Downtown (EDO) area Italian restaurant which took the Duke City by storm when it launched in 2008 and continues to be regarded as one of the Duke City’s best and most inventive pizza restaurants. As with its elder sibling, Farina Pizzeria is owned by restaurant impresarios Pat and Terry Keene, founders and owners of the Artichoke Café, long one of Albuquerque’s most highly regarded fine dining experiences.

Situated in the edifice which previously housed the Pacific Rim Asian Bistro, Farina Alto is easily–at 6,500 square feet–three times the size of the original Farina. Its operating hours are expanded, too, with lunch and dinner served seven days a week. Unlike at its elder scion, Farina Alto’s seating isn’t in personal space proximity and a capacious patio is available for overflow crowds and diners who prefer al fresco dining. Few, if any, vestiges of the Pacific Rim remain. In the area which once served as a sushi prep area, you’ll now find a wine cave and a curing room for the high quality meats and oils used throughout the restaurant’s menu.   Alas, only the chef and sous chef enter the curing room so my pleas for a tour were gently rebuffed.

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Meatballs al Forno Balsamico

Farina Alto launched on Wednesday, April 24th, 2013 with an expanded menu featuring fresh, locally-grown ingredients.  Aside from ingredients of the highest quality, another factor which makes it “Farina-style” is the oven which bakes the restaurant’s signature thin pies in an inferno of heat–650 to 800 degrees.  By virtue of their thin crust, these twelve-inch orbs don’t require a lot of oven-time.  The thin crust also means you’re likely to see more char on the pizza’s edges and bottom than you would on a thicker crust.  The taste of char should be relatively innocuous, even pleasant, but it’s also an acquired taste.  If you accept it, if you like it, you’ll enjoy Farina’s pies because char is a flavor.

Other restaurant standards ported over from EDO include some of the very best meatballs in town.  The notion of meatballs at an Italian restaurant conjures images of baseball-sized orbs made from veal, pork and beef and deluged by red sauce.  Farina’s meatballs al forno Balsamico are the antithesis of that stereotype.  This oven-baked deliciousness features four pine nut studded meatballs per order immersed not in tomato sauce, but in a sweet, tangy, savory Balsamic sauce.  The meatballs are accompanied by toasted crostini which you’ll use to dredge up any of the remaining sauce.

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Pasta e Fagioli: (non-vegetarian) bean and pasta soup

Another EDO favorite which has moved on up to the East side is the pasta e Fagioli, a non-vegetarian bean and pasta soup.  Translating simply to pasta and beans, this Italian comfort food standard is simmered until rich, flavorful and redolent with a melange of ingredients working very well together.  The pasta e Fagioli is topped with ground Italian basil and served hot.  It is available in cup and bowl sizes.

In his Local IQ review of Farina Pizzeria, Kevin Hopper wrote of the pizza “each pie’s individual ingredients come together to form a synergistic symphony of flavors.”   Each pie is crafted in the tradition of artisan pizzaiolos who  know what they’re doing in crafting pies with ingredients so complementary, they dance on all 10,000 of your taste buds with alacrity.  Other pizzerias use similar ingredients (for example: pepperoni, salami, mozzarella) to less acclaim, the difference being the high quality of the ingredients used at Farina Alto.

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Carne (pepperoni, salami, prosciutto, tomato sauce, mozzarella)

The carnivore’s choice for pizza is the simply named Carne which does translate to “meat” in both Italian and Spanish.  A triumvirate of magnificent meats–pepperoni, salami and prosciutto–share space on a canvas of perfectly charred dough with a lightly applied tomato sauce and mozzarella.  Selfishly I love when my Kim orders meaty pizzas on which pepperoni is an ingredient because she doesn’t like pepperoni.  Make that she doesn’t like inferior pepperoni.  She loved the pepperoni at Farina Alto which means I didn’t get much of it.  The Carne is a pulchritudinous pie.

For turophiles (connoisseurs of cheese), one cheese just won’t cut it.  Give us quattro formaggio (four cheeses) when you can or due (two) formaggio if the cheeses complement one another.  On the Formaggio di Capra, the two cheeses-farmhouse goat cheese and mozzarella–most definitely complement one another. Other ingredients on this masterpiece are leeks, scallions and crisp pancetta (a salt-cured pork belly meat).  The pancetta isn’t nearly as smoky as American bacon tends to be, lending instead an infusion of pure pork flavor.  It goes especially well with the smooth, savory-tangy farmhouse goat cheese.

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Formaggio di Capra (leeks, scallions, crisp pancetta, farmhouse goat cheese & mozzarella)

Farina Alto’s dessert menu is limited only in the number of options available.  The deliciousness is unlimited.  Among the most popular options is the gelato, an Italian frozen dessert somewhat similar to ice cream.  The difference between gelato and ice cream is subtraction; gelato usually is not made with cream and usually has a much lower fat content.  Although other flavor options are available, you can’t go wrong with plain vanilla and not just as a metaphor.  The vanilla and the chocolate are exemplars of how good and how pure these two flavors can be, how intensely chocolatey and vanilla pure gelato can be.  The gelato is served with a chocolate biscotti which is also intensely chocolatey.

It’s not likely any foodie will ever conceive of an Albuquerque tiramisu trail.  There just aren’t that many trail worthy options save for Torinos @ Home, Nicky V’s Neighborhood Pizzeria, Sara’s Pastries & Deli and the Farina family.  Though it’d be a short trail, it would be a delicious one.  Farina Alto’s tiramisu is an excellent rendition: Savoiardi cookies soaked in espresso with marsala zabaglione.  The strong espresso is perhaps why tiramisu translates to “pick me up” in Italian.  This is an adult dessert, just sweet enough for interest.

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Tiramisu

Great pizza at the Heights can now be found on the gentle up-slope leading to the Sandias. It’s a pizzeria and more whose very name beckons you to stop.

Farino Alto
10721 Montgomery Blvd, N.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 298-0035
Web Site
LATEST VISIT: 12 May 2013
# OF VISITS: 1
RATING: *
COST: $$ – $$$
BEST BET: Tiramisu, Gelato, Meatballs al Forno Balsamico, Pasta e Fagioli, Carne, Formaggio di Capra

 

Farina Alto Pizzeria & Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

  • Enon says:

    Thanks for the great reviews; very useful. But you should know that the Nova story is an urban myth:

    http://www.snopes.com/business/misxlate/nova.asp

    May 18, 2013 at 7:57 PM
    • Bob of the Village of Los Ranchos says:

      I’m guessing most guys might be familiar with the scrunched up expression gals display when they check out how well their guy ‘cleaned’ up the bathroom after taking a shower. I remember a similar look when my late Vieja saw the name for the new sign going up for the Sav-On drugstore way back before Snopes and the Internet. Like the Nova issue Snopes http://tinyurl.com/c6a4gcu disclaimed its downward spiral or flip-flop re the name, was due to being renamed OSCO. While visually it might seem OK, depending on how much wax ya had in your ears or which part of the valley you were from, you’ll might hear it as ASCO which is akin to ‘disgust’, ‘loathing’. ‘vomit’. LOL. Bottom line….

      May 19, 2013 at 9:45 PM
  • Edward Sung says:

    Gil, are you going to go to the Torino’s birthday dinner this week?

    May 18, 2013 at 9:44 PM
  • Gil Garduno says:

    Hi Edward

    My calendar is insane on Thursday, May 23rd when the Torinos birthday celebration takes place, so unless I’m able to clear my calendar we probably won’t be able to make it. Will you and Hannah be there?

    For readers who don’t subscribe to Daniela’s newsletter, the Torinos birthday bash is a community table, by reservation only event featuring Maxime’s favorite food and wines. It promises to be one of the best dining events of the year.

    Gil

    May 19, 2013 at 8:15 PM
    • Hannah says:

      Indeed we will!

      May 20, 2013 at 11:44 AM
  • Bruce Schor says:

    BOTVOLR,
    Seems like your “loo” is also your “office”.
    This comment points to you preference for just that.
    In a previous comment you suggested the “head” was a perfect place to use ones laptop.
    A small hot plate strategically placed might add to you “office ambiance”.
    A tub length pad in the jaccuzi and a large stock of “yum yums” and you might not have to leave your man cave for days on end.
    Re Bobcat Bite, everyone who has eaten there wants the new place up and running.
    A friend suggested a great new name, Bobcat Bite Me.
    I like it!

    May 21, 2013 at 7:06 AM
  • Bob of the Village of Los Ranchos says:

    The BruceS: Speaking of dining conveniences and as I’m automotively challenged, I didn’t realize the purpose of a “spoiler” til I saw this kid http://tinyurl.com/kmjul6a using one, which would’ve been great in keeping one’s car inside clean in the delightfully olde days of Drive-In movies, albeit we didn’t ‘drink’ back then as teens.
    - (Condolences to our Okie vecinos.)

    May 21, 2013 at 9:24 AM
  • Bruce Schor says:

    Had my first meal at Farina Alto.
    The menu seemed exactly the same as Farina on Central.
    As usual it was hit and miss for me.
    The pizza carne was like dining on a salt lick and my guess was it was reheated.
    The pizza with leeks and cheese was very good.
    I thought I had ordered the antipasto salad platter but when it hadn’t arrived with the other salad I chose not to make a big deal about it a decided to not have it.
    In terms of service I was disappointed. I don’t drink much beer but if I do it’s summer and I drink it over ice.
    So what, who cares.
    I specifically ordered a bottle and a tall glass of ice.
    When the bottle arrived it was a can……
    I said to out waitperson, ” No bottle”.
    The reply was .
    ” I know, is that a problem?” We’ll, not being in a confrontational mood is said I’ll keep it.
    But, BUT if you know it’s not what I wanted why even bring it?
    Perhaps making one more trip to inform me would have been too much to ask.
    Hit or miss food and questionable service is not a good thing.

    July 1, 2013 at 10:18 AM

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