Boasting delicious pizza with crispy thin crust, fresh mozzarella and organic ingredients, Farinella is, understandably, a lunchtime favorite. Hip-hop-artist-turned chef Alberto Polo Cretara brings, from his homeland, the popular four-foot Roman-style pizza called the "palam," which can be ordered by the whole or the slice: a sweet antidote to the cheesy heaviness of the Americanized round pie.
Generously stuffed calzones and paninis make up some of Farinella's other hot offerings. For those seeking lighter fare, Farinella also has a wide section of fresh daily-baked breads, from the casareccio loya, the classic Italian house bread, to the scrumptious apricot and walnut bread. After 5 PM every day, any loaf of bread is only $2, a fantastic bargain for the taste.
A friendly, easygoing atmosphere and a variety of Italian classics along with some unique creations, make Farinella an irresistible place to return to, be it for lunch or a casual night out with friends.
Written by Bonnie Chan
Making pizza is just like making music — so goes the philosophy of hip-hop-artist-turned-chef Alberto Polo Cretara, who exuberantly oversees Italian pizzeria and bakery Farinella. Cretara brightens especially when recalling his hometown of Naples, Italy, a city he describes as being rampant with energy, creativity and culture; in short, Italy’s “craziest” wild child. He conjures up fond memories of tomatoes that grew so ripe and rich that they could be thrown straight into dishes without additional seasoning.
In Farinella, Cretara seeks to recapture that same authentic, original flavor in every bite. Everything at Farinella is daily made fresh from organic and locally-produced ingredients, using a high-quality gluten flour and extra-virgin olive oil. In purposeful opposition to the Americanized round pizza pie dripping with cheese and drowning in ingredients, Farinella presents their specialty: the palam (pah-lam). The palam, a traditional style Cretara learned during his training at Rome’s renowned restaurant Il Forno, is a crispy and thin four-foot long pizza made with organic tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella cheese and topped with locally-grown vegetables. Customers can choose to order a full pizza palam, which is the equivalent of two-and-a-half 14-inch round pies, or eat it “al taglio” (by the slice).
Other standouts include the filling calzoni, baked frittata, and the pasta croquette. The last dish is the size of a mere egg, but is a surprising bite of scrumptious deliciousness with just the two deep-fried ingredients of pasta di cappellini and fresh ricotta cheese.
Farinella also offers a huge selection of daily baked breads, which includes whole wheat, almond brioche, apple pane, wheat berry, and raspberry- and apricot-flavored jam tarts. Particularly delicious is the apricot and walnut bread, made with fresh apricots and walnuts; the olive bread with sunflower seeds and black olives; and the casareccio loya (“house bread”), which is considered authentic Italian bread — crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside.
Lastly, a wall of Italian snacks and groceries reveals cookies, pasta, and a variety of dried goods. There’s prosciutto imported from Italy, fresh buffalo mozzarella also imported from Italy twice a week, various jarred delicacies of artichokes, mushrooms and homemade breadcrumbs; and small items for personal cooking, such as jarred tuna from the Mediterranean.
Back in Italy, having received an education through entertainment, Cretara headed La Famiglia, a classic old-school hip hop group in the vein of Run DMC. To this day, La Famiglia's music remains a significant presence in the development of the Italian hip hop movement. For this talented emcee, there is no line drawn between the creation of music and the creation of food. For him, both amount to a type of art. Both demand an exploration of culture, of tradition, of finding the best ingredients and putting them together to create an amalgamation of the current, the old, and the unforgettable.