Saturday, December 4, 2010

Liguria in SF - Dinner at Farina Focaccia

During our recent trip to Italy, two of the best things we had to eat were towards the very end of the trip while we were in Liguria, namely (a) Mandilli al Pesto at Le Cantine Squarciafico in Genova, and (b) Focaccia di Recco at Pizzeria del Ponte in Recco (described further at items #19 and #21 at this post). Not long after our return to San Francisco, I was recounting those meals to a friend who told me that both dishes could be found at Farina Focaccia on 18th Street in the Mission, a restaurant featuring Ligurian food of which I had heard, but to which I had never been.

I decided that the Thanksgiving holidays would be a good opportunity to try out Farina so last Saturday, still a bit full from our Thanksgiving meal a couple of days earlier, Andrew, Connie, Alex, Cassie, Nancy and I descended upon them.

At our dinner we explored the following dishes on their menu, including, of course, their Mandilli di Seta (which means “silk handkerchiefs,” a reference to the thin, silky appearance of the pasta – see this excellent video from the Farina kitchen of the Mandilli being prepared by Executive Chef Paola Laboa who hails from Genova) and the Focaccia di Recco, which attracted us in the first place:

I thought that Farina's versions of both the Mandilli and the Focaccia di Recco were very good – especially the Mandilli - although neither was quite as good as the versions of the dishes we had in Liguria. Here are side-by-side comparisons of the two dishes – in each case with the Farina version on the left side:

In the case of the Mandilli, I thought the Farina version was too heavily sauced. Farina’s Focaccia di Recco suffered from having to be prepared as a smaller sized portion, as compared to Recco’s UFO-sized monsters which were cut up into single servings, one of the benefits of their higher volume turnover since the Focaccia di Recco dish is one that you have to eat as soon as possible after it comes out of the oven.

It is worth pointing out that the dough used in the Focaccia di Recco is similar in texture to the Mandilli pasta shown in the above Farina video. It is very, very thin – really more like a crepe – in contrast to the thicker bread-like dough that I generally associate with “focaccia” (for example, that sold at the Liguria Bakery in North Beach). Just how thin can be seen in the following photos from Recco.

Should anyone be tempted to give it a try at home, here is a video demonstration (in Italian, but quite easy to follow).Although Farina's Mandilli and Focaccia di Recco were good, I thought that the best dish we had at our dinner was their Cima di Rapa Saltate – rapini (aka broccoli rabe) sautéed with anchovies, garlic and red pepper flakes – simple, fresh, vivid and excellent.

I also liked Farina’s wine list which featured a number of Italian producers and wines with which I was not familiar. With some help from our server we selected wines from opposite ends of Italy - a white “Ronco del Cerò” Sauvignon Blanc produced by Venica & Venica located just north of Dolegna del Collio in Gorizia in the Friuli–Venezia Giulia regione, only about a mile from the Italy/Slovenia border, and a red “Le Fole” Aglianico d’Irpinia produced by Cantina Giardino in Campania. The Venica Sauvignon was particularly good.

The six of us had a great time!

Farina Focaccia is definitely a place to which we will be returning in the future, even though we have heard that the Executive Chef, Paola Laboa, may soon be returning to Genova to open a Farina Focaccia branch there.


Simona said...

Very interesting review. Did you know about the Pesto Championship victory?

gastronomichael said...

Thanks Simona. I did know about that victory but had not seen the article you cited. Very interesting. Happy holidays.