Review: Johnny Farina, Ottawa
216 Elgin Street, Ottawa – Website
Visit- January, 2016
Johnny Farina is really two restaurants in one in that there is a Deli section on one side and a moderately more formal bistro style eatery on the other. I arrived for lunch one afternoon during the normal lunch hour and I chose the ‘non-deli’ side for what turned out to be a very pleasant meal…
Ambience and Service
The Deli portion of the establishment has a bar and a large glass-fronted wine cabinet with what appears to be a fairly comprehensive selection. The other side is a done in brick with black furnishings and fittings, and a few potted plants add a nice touch. There is an upstairs portion overlooking the floor where I was seated but it did not appear to be open during the lunch hour.
I was seated immediately and my server was very friendly and chatty. She was quite happy to leave me alone with a beer while I perused the menu and she was able to answer the questions I had both about the beers and dishes available. The menu is not extensive at lunch time, being shorter than the dinner one, but it has some nice appetizers and pasta selections. The place has its own wood-fired oven, visible to patrons, and Pizzas appear very much to be the specialty. There are only four entrees available at lunch, one veal, one salmon, and two chicken, but there are also some wraps and panini selections as well. In addition to a fair number of wines, the bar also stocks a nice complement of single malts too.
Cream of Roasted Red Pepper Soup – This was the soup of the day rather than a regular menu choice and it was excellent. There was a definite sweet taste of roasted pepper but what I liked best was that the fresh, tangy taste of the raw article was still detectable as well. It was creamy, and delicately seasoned, and I should very much like to try and duplicate the result at home sometime. I gave this a well-deserved 5 out of 5.
Mussels with Malibu Cream Sauce – There are two styles of mussels on the menu at Johnny Farina and the first is just a pretty standard variety with basil and tomato. I had to ask what the Malibu Sauce version might be and, when I was told that it was made with coconut flavored Malibu Rum, I wasn’t sure that I would like it. As it was, though, the result was very tasty, being heavily redolent of fresh garlic, and the coconut taste (almost undetectable unless one already knows it is present) was actually very nice. For something I half expected to dislike, I was pleasantly surprised and I rated it at a 4 out of 5.
Meatballs in Pomodoro Sauce with Ricotta Pesto – This was the only part of the meal that was a little disappointing. The tomato sauce was alright, if unremarkable but the meatballs (probably a pork and beef blend) were very bland and a little too softly textured for my taste. The Ricotta Pesto did have a little basil in it but it really added nothing to the overall experience. I gave this just 2 out of 5.
Johnny Farina is a decent place for lunch and I would probably come back to try their dinner menu sometime. The prices are reasonable and the service was very good. I rate it at a 4 out of 5.