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August 18-31
VOL.14 ISSUE. 26

Fabuloso Famoso

Noelle Chorney
Published Thursday April 30, 07:00 pm
Chain angst be damned, this place is seriously good

136 Primrose Dr.

I’ve been doing a fair bit of backtracking on some of my food beliefs these days. That’s the trouble with taking a stand: if someone proves you wrong, you’ve gotta admit it.

Last issue, I had to back down from my anti-buffet stand and acknowledge Spicy Bite’s buffet for the glorious delight that it is. This week, I have to back down from my general dislike of restaurant chains, because of Famoso.

You may have noticed an influx of pizza joints in the city lately — and at the risk of alienating all the Vern’s fans out there, I say none too soon! (I enjoy a slice from Vern’s or Venice House once in a while too, but there’s more to the world of pizza than the standard we Saskatchewanians have grown up with.)

First on the scene by about a month is Famoso, a B.C.-based chain that is now in four provinces. They’ve got the authentic bell oven, a bustling atmosphere, thin crust pizzas and affogato on the dessert menu (more on that later). And they’ve got service and consistency (the boon of restaurant chains everywhere) down pat.

I’ve tried Famoso on multiple occasions. Its first plus is that it’s in the north end, close to where I live (and they’re apparently soon going to open up a second location, on 8th Street in Greystone). We’ve been in a bit of a restaurant wasteland for the last few years, so the whole neighbourhood is coming out to support Famoso.

Our first visit was with our kids. After encountering unmanageable lineups a couple of times, we decided to head there for an early dinner. (We walked in at 4:30pm, and I kid you not, the lineup had started by 5:00. Wow.)

These guys know how to keep kids happy: they bring a ball of pizza dough for each kid to play with while they wait for their food, and between that and the big-screen TVs, my youngins were mesmerized. Famoso has also got a kids’ deal, daily specials, and — possibly most important for parents — a pretty decent wine, beer and cocktail list. My husband and I ordered a Melipal Malbec rosé, which pretty much goes with anything.

We were tempted by the prosciutto-wrapped mozzarella balls (and really, how could you not be). These molten morsels were my first introduction to Famoso’s tomato sauce. Of course the mozzarella and prosciutto were tasty, but it was the tomato sauce that won my heart. They import their tomatoes from Campania in Italy, and they are truly wonderful to behold. I thought I knew canned tomatoes, but these… so sweet and fresh and balanced. Wow.

I could just dip bread in that tomato sauce and live happily ever after. I haven’t tried their tomato soup, but I’m sure it uses the Campania tomatoes, and I’d recommend it based on that alone.

They have half-sized pizzas for kids, and some truly tempting options for adults. My kids opted for ones that weren’t covered by the kids’ special (of course), and had Quattro Fromaggio and Capricciosa, which comes with Italian ham, roasted mushrooms, black olives and artichoke hearts.

I decided to try the Margherita pizza with added anchovies, and my husband opted for Abruzzo, with Italian sausage, roasted red peppers, onions, mushrooms and smoked mozzarella.

I enjoyed watching the bustle of the restaurant, and we could see the open kitchen from our table — there’s dough-tossing and order-calling, and it was all quite entertaining.  And the food was totally on point. We packed up some of our pizza to make sure we had room for gelato, because affogato is my all-time favourite dessert, and it’s on Famoso’s menu. It is simple and fabulous: a shot of espresso poured over gelato. My kids and husband downed their gelato while I savoured the perfect bittersweet end to my meal.

Start to finish, our family dinner at Famoso was flawless. The bill (which of course included wine) was the only uncomfortable part. Dinner for four including two kids came in around $100. Not the priciest I’ve experienced, but not something I can afford to do every week.

Lunch was equally excellent. The mozza balls were on special that day, so of course we had to order some. I tried a Funghi (mushroom and truffle oil) white pizza and my lunch date and I swapped pieces, so I also got to try the Cavoletti. This one is by far the pizza I’m most excited about: roasted Brussels sprouts, a sprinkling of Prosciutto crisps, gorgonzola cheese, dates, walnuts and honey.

Blue cheese, dates and walnuts on a pizza?! Oh my! It’s such a great balance of sweet and savoury. If you’re a blue cheese lover at all, this is totally for you. And of course, I wrapped up my meal with affogato. It’s a better choice at lunch than dinner, since that shot of espresso might keep you up at night.

One last visit with girlfriends on a Saturday night confirmed that Famoso is good for pretty much any kind of casual get-together, with kids or without. We sampled the “Trimoso,” a sampling of three mimosas (juice mixed with sparkling wine). That was fun. I carried on with sparkling wine, while my friends opted for caesars and Paddockwood beers.

We ordered an antipasto platter while we waited for one of our friends to arrive, and it was lovely to pick at while we were sipping our cocktails. When we had all arrived I insisted they try the mozza balls because they’re so damn good. Then we sampled some of the “new world” pizzas. I tried the spicy Thai, and my friends tried the barbecue chicken, and a build-your-own option. They were all excellent, but I still found myself thinking about the Cavoletti. I would have traded all three of those pizzas for that one.

Since it was so late at the end of our meal, I managed to resist the temptation to order another affogato, and instead got a tiramisu and three spoons. We were told the tiramisu is imported from Italy. It was fine — made with good-quality ingredients, but not as over-the-top rich as the one I make at home.

Now that I’ve sampled a good portion of the menu (but not yet the soup and sandwiches, which also sound amazing: a meatball sandwich and tomato soup for lunch sounds pretty fantastic), I still can’t settle on one favourite. I’ll probably cycle through the Cavoletti, Margherita with anchovies, and the Funghi, with the mozza balls to start and affogato for dessert.

So, bottom line: if you’re like me you’ll put away your distaste for chain restaurants at Famoso, because it’s just too good in too many ways to resist. 

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