Chow Down in Cowtown is an (almost!) weekly account of Calgary’s most awesome eats from Ceci n’est pas un food blog.
I’d heard good things about Famoso, the Calgary offshoot of an Edmonton-based franchise that specializes in Neapolitan pizzas. The only other place where I’d had a Neapolitan-style pizza was at Pulcinella over a year and a half ago, and I didn’t really enjoy the charred, burnt-tasting crust. Since then, I’ve become more familiar with the idea of a Neapolitan-style pizza, and the fact that Famoso is the most “talked about” Calgary restaurant on Urbanspoon right now made me curious to give it a try.
I have to echo most people’s sentiment that the service at Famoso is confusing. Seriously, if you have to dedicate a page on your website to how the restaurant works, then it’s probably not a good format. They make it sound easy – you seat yourself, read the menu, order at the counter, and the service staff take care of the rest. However, since it was a busy Friday night, they had hostesses seating people that night. To add to the confusion, there are also four tables downstairs, which you can jump the line and take if you’re ok with not sitting in the main dining room with the cathedral-style roof and floor-to-ceiling windows. Downstairs, the waitress offered to take our order, but she seemed busy when we were ready so we went upstairs and ordered at the counter anyway. At the end of the dinner we paid our bill at the table, though in the past I’ve heard that some people had to go up to the counter to pay.
I’m sure this “fast casual” style of dining works when the restaurant isn’t filled to the brim, but still I don’t see any speed/service advantage to it, especially in a two-storey space. It just feels like a sneaky way for the restaurant to save money on staff… somehow…
Still, the service was pretty friendly overall, despite the fact that the server at the counter couldn’t really hear me over the noise and seemed really perplexed that we only ordered one glass of wine – the Monte Antico Sangiovese ($11.25 for 9 oz), which was a smooth blend of Sangiovese, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.
We chose two pizzas – one from the traditional Pizza Rossa (red sauce) menu, and one Pizza Bianca, which forgoes the tomato sauce in favour of a simple drizzle of olive oil with fresh garlic and oregano.
Our Pizza Rossa was their Vesuvio ($13.50), which features a fresh-tasting tomato sauce studded with red pepper flakes and topped with mozzarella, spicy sopressata (a type of salami) and fresh basil. I ordered it because I generally don’t believe the “spicy” icon on menus at non-Asian restaurants. However, the Vesuvio delivered – while real spice fanatics would probably laugh it off, for me it was just a little too intense (especially the sauce).
I preferred our Pizza Bianca, which was the simple Prosciutto Arugula ($14.50). This was a very light-tasting pizza, especially with a squeeze of lemon, that highlighted the “sauce” of olive oil and garlic. Eating a mouthful of the peppery arugula made me feel a little virtuous, even though I know in reality that pizza is not healthy by any means!
All of Famoso’s pizzas are about 11″ – slightly too big for one person but also too small to split between two – but we managed to finish all but one slice. The pizza here is definitely better than Pulcinella – the thin, chewy crust still features those charred bubbles, but without the burnt taste. Still, there’s room for improvement – the pizza was not piping hot for something that came out of a wood-fired oven, and I was quick about taking my photos (notice how there are only two of each pizza and they are all very similar); parts of the crust, especially on the Vesuvio, were more soggy than chewy as well.
B. and I were too stuffed for dessert, but if I wasn’t, I would’ve probably gone for a scoop of Fiasco Gelato while he would’ve probably gone for their tiramisu. Overall I think I might be willing to go back on a weeknight, but it’s missing that “wow” factor for me.
Famoso Neapolitan Pizzeria
105, 2303 4 St SW
Calgary AB T2S 2S7
Open 11 AM-11 PM every day.