Reservation for One: Farina

Photos by Aaron Leimkuehler

Bold colors, dynamic shapes, and an impeccable sense of design—no, we’re not talking about a new exhibition opening in the Crossroads Arts District. The neighborhood’s latest destination for absorbing art and culture is chef and owner Michael Smith’s modern Italian concept, Farina.   

The restaurant shares a posh entryway with neighbor Haw Contemporary and seems to have absorbed some of its art gallery DNA, displayed through the open-concept dining room flanked by both a cocktail bar and raw bar. Soaring windows look out into the neighborhood while the walls are adorned with textured canvases from Kansas City artist Robert Quackenbush. Every aesthetic detail seems carefully considered, from the minimalist wood bowl full of herbed olives that kicks off the meal to the curved upholstered and leather banquettes in the dining room. Yet they elegantly fade into the background in service of Farina’s true works of art—the food and drinks.

Left to right: Caramelle and raw oysters.

Berto Santoro, a veteran of Michael Smith Restaurant and Extra Virgin, is on hand, serving up a bevy of fresh cocktails behind the sleek bar. Offerings include the light and citrusy Two Yoots, made with limone gin, finocchietto, and charred lemon with a sprig of rosemary providing a pleasant herbal pop. The bar team’s trademark creativity is also on display with the Go Home & Get Your Shine Box, a smoky mescal-based libation brightened with grapefruit, Calabrian chili honey and sage. And Nancy Smith, restaurant partner, general manager, and wine director, ensures wine remains a pillar of the Michael Smith brand.

Much of Farina will feel familiar to fans of Michael Smith Restaurant, but there are some fresh additions. The oyster bar serves up an impressive variety of fare based on availability, including oysters that could tempt even the most skeptical landlocked consumer of raw seafood. A plump West Coast offering and its petite friend are briny delights with a splash of well-balanced mignonette.

Left to right: The “Two Yoots,” “Go Home and Get Your Sun Box”, and affogato.

The kitchen offers plenty of other ways to start your meal. A picture-perfect arugula salad is presented with an artfully arranged pile of greens bordered with saffron arancini, a deliciously warm, crunchy complement to the dressing’s acid. In addition to a selection of other salads (like the extremely Instagramable roasted baby carrots), diners can enjoy dishes like duck meatballs, white-bean crab bruschetta, and the indulgent burrata, which comes complete with osetra caviar.

On the simpler side, Farina’s caramelle pasta is just as impressive, with sheets of hand-rolled pasta enveloping crescenza cheese, the ends twirled together on each side like a candy treat. Beautifully al dente and smothered in a rich mushroom marsala sauce, it’s a testament to how pasta’s few basic ingredients can be transformed. The grano arso gemelli, a colorful lamb Bolognese dish dotted with carrot, mint, and feta, is another standout, as is the bucatini carbonara. The carbonara is one of the “Four Kings of Rome” dishes on the menu year-round, which also include spaghetti cacio e pepe, rigatoni all’Amatriciana, and tagliatelle Bolognese. Guests in search of heartier fare can dig into the famous Michael Smith pork roast accompanied by saffron rissotto, a veal chop pizzaiola, or a Mediterranean branzino broiled in shrimp butter.

Despite chef Smith’s rock-star status in the local culinary scene, he can still be seen flitting in and out of the kitchen, greeting guests energetically and pouring the espresso for affogato. It’s one of Farina’s dessert offerings, which run the gamut from elegant—a picture-perfect apple rose tart with spiced persimmon ice cream—to the more rustic, a warm Sicilian bread pudding packed with crunch from pomegranate seeds and the bread’s flaky edges.

Farina already runs like a well-oiled machine, thanks in large part to the team carried over from Michael Smith. Still, the pace of dining is leisurely, encouraging guests to take a languid joy in eating. That speaks more to Smith’s understanding of the Italian food philosophy than a bowl of pasta—however delicious it may be—ever could.

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