Vibrant, bright, and relaxed are all ways to describe the atmosphere at Via Farina in downtown Omaha. Whether sitting inside the quaint pizzeria or outside on the café style patio, it’s easy to imagine you’re on a corner street in the heart of Italy, complete with yellow scooters parked outside waiting to deliver a fresh pie nearby. Combined with fresh, hand made pastas, boutique wines, and craft cocktails, Via Farina offers distinct dishes at friendly prices.
Owner Ethan Bondelid has a passion for creating experiences. His varied background has included graphic design, DJ and party promoter, as well as leadership development and global management consulting. His first venture as a business owner was opening the former House of Loom dance club six years ago, and he’s opened a new business every year since, including Wicked Rabbit, Looking Glass, The Berry & Rye, Laka Lono Rum Club, Victor Victoria Salon & Spa, and Monarch Prime & Bar.
He said it was during a trip to NYC in which he went on a tour of the city’s best pizzerias, visiting seven in one afternoon. “I loved the sight and smell of a wood-fired oven and decided to research them more,” Ethan said. He partnered with long-time friend Paul Kulik, owner chef of Le Bouillon and Howard Sreet Wine who helped teach Ethan the secret to good pasta. “I was in the bar business, and he was in the restaurant business, so we teamed up to create this concept. Pizza is very different in Italy than it is in America, and we wanted to recreate that, all the way down to the delivery scooters.”
Those yellow scooters deliver during the spring and summer months throughout downtown and midtown. It’s part of the Italian lifestyle that Via Farina embodies. “People who have scooters are usually very mechanical, meticulous, and hands-on, much like our chefs when they’re rolling and cutting pasta, or cooking in the wood-fire oven,” Ethan said. That tradition is even depicted in the tool mural that spans the length of one of the restaurant’s walls.
But the food is what really sets Via Farina apart. Chef John Rae has created a menu that offers a broad scope of hearty and light dishes. The pizza dough takes three days to proof before it’s ready for baking—an incredibly delicate process that even the slightest amount of humidity can affect. The Bianco Napoli tomato sauce is full of flavor and tannins, which provides a flexible base for virtually unlimited toppings. “John comes up with pizzas that are different and surprising, but people are so glad they tried it,” Ethan said.
Examples of that include the Primavera Pizza, which is topped with asparagus, ricotta cheese, and Meyer Lemon; Bresaola and Melon salad made with kale, endive, red wine vinaigrette and mint; the fried cauliflower with capers, chili flakes, lemon, and pecorino; and the Cheure Cappellaci pasta that features wild nettles, asparagus, arugula, grana, and olive oil.
Pizza and pasta wouldn’t be complete without wine, and Via Farina offers an extensive wine menu with most bottles priced at $35. “We want your experience to be simple and delicious,” Ethan said. “Have a bottle of wine and share a pie in a nice, casual, upbeat atmosphere.” With Ethan’s background in creating an experience through cocktails, Via Farina also offers a number of drinks that compliment that Italian spirit, one of the most popular being the Aperol spritz topped with sparkling wine on tap—perfect for the outdoor patio on a summer evening.
Ethan explained that a dining experience isn’t just about your palate—it’s about the weather, your mood, and the company you’re with, and Via Farina has something that speaks to a variety of combinations. “Our pizza and pasta might be different than the classic American style that most people are used to,” he said. “Our food is sourced, prepared, and designed to be different, but most people like that it is.”