Carroll Gardens

Michael Turner’s Farina to host upcoming Brooklyn Dining Club event

July 2, 2024 Alice Gilbert
Interior of Farina. Photos courtesy of Michael Turner
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On July 29, the Brooklyn Dining Club will host an event at Farina, 338 Hamilton Ave., between Carroll Gardens and Red Hook. Surrounded by car dealerships and buzzing with the sound of the highway directly above, it’s not the first place you might come hunting for a southern Italian meal. However, Michael Turner and his team have created a haven with carefully sourced and composed food and wine, making a trip below the BQE less burdensome and genuinely exciting.

Turner tries to contribute as little as possible to the chaos going on outside his door; pouring house red wine directly from massive stainless steel containers into ceramic carafes lowers glass bottle waste. Sourcing ingredients locally and humanely lessens their carbon footprint. Farina’s polished, serene atmosphere is the antidote to its location, and we look forward to dining there with you. 

Tickets go on sale soon. 

From left: Agostino Arioli, founder and head brewer of Birrificio Italiano. We will be pouring Tipopils for the event, and Tom Pavlich is an expert rep that works for the importer. Tom will be at the event to give more insight into the brewing process and tasting notes. Photos courtesy of Michael Turner
From left: Agostino Arioli, founder and head brewer of Birrificio Italiano. We will be pouring Tipopils for the event, and Tom Pavlich is an expert rep who will give more insight into the brewing process and tasting notes. Photo courtesy of Michael Turner

Tell me about yourself and Farina. 

There used to be a pizzeria here, and I was a customer of theirs. I always found this place enchanting, especially because of the oven. Based on public records, there was an Irish bakery here in the 1850s. Interestingly enough, I got an email two days ago from a guy in New Jersey who said that his great-grandfather used to own this building and dry tobacco here. His great-grandfather lived upstairs and would take trips with his son down south to buy the tobacco. 

I’ve lived in this neighborhood for many years but grew up in southern Italy. I was exposed to cuisines, traditions and ingredients. I lived there for a little over 25 years in a small, rural town an hour east of Naples. Many towns there have a history tied back to the Romans or populations from northern Europe. There are a lot of families who farm and provide for themselves. There’s a lot of, for example, an exchange of eggs for a service or bread for something else. Everybody knows everybody. When I moved to the U.S., I had a dream of opening a restaurant that had roots in southern Italy, and that’s Farina. 

Farina is in a pretty interesting spot – under the highway between Carroll Gardens and Red Hook. Tell me about the location. 

We’re aware we aren’t getting a lot of foot traffic or people stopping in off the street. I like to think that we are a neighborhood restaurant before anything. We have a lot of people from the neighborhood coming in. Although we’ve been here for ten months, we’re still extremely new. Between us and Brooklyn Heights, there are about 20 pizza places. The word is spreading because we’re bringing an original, southern Italian flavor. 

Farina pizza. Photos courtesy of Michael Turner
Farina pizza. Photo courtesy of Michael Turner

We’re grateful for our customers who come here and take an hour and a half or two hours out of their day to take a break from everything. We recognize that to come to Farina, you have to think about us. With everything going on, it’s a pleasure to be in your thoughts. And then you have to come down here. It’s a double effort. That can be one of the biggest challenges and why we focus on freshness, quality and experience. If you don’t remember us after the first time you came here, we did something wrong.

Farina means flour – what does that mean in terms of your pizza dough?

We knew that if we were located here, we had to provide something a bit different. We focus on our pizza, which is made with seven types of flour. Most of those are ancient grains from western Sicily. Last week, at the Fancy Food Show, I met the producer of four of our grains, even though we’d been speaking for over a year. 

Because the oven is originally a bread oven, we’re cooking at a slightly lower temperature than you would use for a traditional Neapolitan or Roman pizza. Our pizza is inspired by artisanal bread making. This allows for a longer cook and deeper caramelization, and it brings out the fragrances and flavors of the grains. 

Exterior of Farina. Photo courtesy of Michael Turner
Exterior of Farina. Photo courtesy of Michael Turner

What about the combinations of flavors that go on top of that dough?

Most of our sundries are imported. For fresh ingredients, I like to work with local growers. For example, some of the mushrooms we use are from Smallhold in Clinton Hill. I like to use luscious basil, which I get from Gotham Greens in Gowanus. Having relationships with people across the ocean in Italy, where I have a lot of friends in the food and wine business, also brings a lot of flavor and originality. 

Every pizza on our list, besides some of the original classics, is named after a region in southern Italy, from Rome down. We wanted to emphasize what those regions are known for and their staple ingredients. For instance, we have the Abruzzo pizza, which has potatoes and saffron, because Abruzzo is one of the top producers of saffron in Italy. We also have the Lazio, which uses flavors you often see in pasta dishes, like guanciale and artichokes. It’s a match made in heaven on a pizza. 

The guanciale is from a friend I grew up with in Italy. He now owns a salumeria in the Catskills. He and his wife work with farms in the Hudson Valley, and instead of doing what most people do these days and buying cuts of meat, they work with the whole animal. There’s almost no waste in the production. When you taste that guanciale, it’s completely new to some people, but to me, it reminds me of growing up in Italy. 

Pizza in the Farina oven. Photo courtesy of Michael Turner
Pizza in the Farina oven. Photo courtesy of Michael Turner

It’s a shame that these practices are so normal in Italy yet so rare here. Which pizza, if you had to choose, is your favorite?

I used to eat pizza with my dad growing up. His favorite was a marinara. Simplicity is the best. We do an iteration here with tomatoes from Mount Vesuvius. Their flavor profile is completely different from a regular tomato because of the mineral composition of the soil, and the fact they grow with virtually no water makes for a special tomato. They’re lightly blanched and then jarred in that water. 

Besides the event with the Brooklyn Dining Club, what is coming up in Farina’s future?

We’re hosting a rehearsal dinner for one couple and a wedding for another in September. They loved that we could provide a family meal and the feeling of being in southern Italy. We’re coming up on one year of Farina on Aug. 30.

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