Saturday, August 11, 2012

Famoso Neapolitan Pizza

Sheila and I were part of the group of people here in town invited to the opening evening of the new Famoso Neapolitan Pizza in Market Square.   We were surprised by the invite but it seems this blog caught their eye.

We could not bring our normal camera because we broke the SD card earlier in the day and we need to buy a new one, so the pictures I have do not do justice to the food or restaurant.

There is no way Famoso is going to ever avoid being compared to Prima Strada which is not really going to be fair on them as the two restaurants are not really direct competitors.


Prima Strada is a great restaurant but it is really a place for serious foodies and and in many ways not the general public as such.   Famoso is a much more accessible place to be introduced to real Neapolitan pizza and with a broader menu it allows groups with less adventurous people to come along.


Prima Strada is in a wood fired oven, Famoso seems to use a purpose built gas fired oven.   This means Famoso has more control and consistency over the baking of the pizzas.  When they are up to speed the pizzas should all be consistent day in and day out.   At Prima Strada the wood firing means that the crust often has bubbles that have burnt.  Most times there are only a couple but I have had some where there are really too many and the whole pizza gets a carbon aftertaste.

Both places offer Neapolitan pizza which is not what the term pizza means to most people.  In North America the public has become used to the pizza as a huge mass of toppings with think gooey cheese and a lot of sauce with all of this baked at a lower temperature than is ideal.   The North American pizza is not about the dough and Pizza Hut takes this to the ultimate extent with their stuffed crusts.   Neapoltian pizza is something very different and requires a rethink of what you understand to be a pizza.

A Neapolitan pizza is made with OO flour, a very fine low gluten flour from Italy - I had no idea it was low gluten and was surprised at this as I expected pizza dough would need to have a lot of gluten to stretch enough.   The pizza is covered with a small amout of sauce and toppings and the cheese never coats the whole top of the pizza.   It them goes in the oven for 90 seconds at a temperature of 900 degrees.

We arrived for the 8:30 sitting and were ushered to our table.   We were given the oven roasted olives with a spicy olive oil as a starter, I was impressed as these were the best olives I have ever eaten in my life.  We are also both given an Italian Spritz cocktail to start - prosecco, aperol and soda water.

I had the Siciliana pizza and it clearly had the basis for a great pizza but the execution fell short.   There was too much sauce on the dough and this meant that as soon as it was cut the pizza started to get soggy.   A Neapolitan pizza requires a thin skiff of sauce and that really takes time for the people making them and for the public eating them to get used to.  When the first Prima Strada opened on Cook Street the soggy pizza situation happened there.   I also have to question the choice of one of the hams on the pizza, it was a salt cured ham that is naturally damp and I suspect added to the soggy crust.

Sheila had the Margherita and it was well done.   I did not get a chance to try a slice so I can not tell you how it tasted, but Sheila seemed very happy with it.
Sheila's Margherita

I had the lemon sorbetto, I love a good lemon sorbetto, something that is so easy find in much of Europe but something way to rare in Canada.  Famoso has a relationship with Fiasco Gelato of Calgary, who supply them.   The lemon sorbetto was very good and the portion was generous.   James from Fiasco was on hand for the opening and we talked with him for awhile.   Hopefully in the future Fiasco Gelato will be for sale by the pint at Famoso.

Sheila ordered the Dolce & Banana desert - it was more than big enough for two people but only $7.  It is oven roasted bananas covered in caramelized brown sugar, crushed pecans and a caramel sauce.  It is then topped with a scoop of the Fiasco vanilla gelato.

The prices are generally quite reasonable with some good deals such as a free gelato scoop for kids 12 and younger.

After the meal there was a talk by one of the founders, Justin Lussier, about the story of Famoso and then a demonstration of how the pizza is made.

Famoso was started by Justin together Jason Allard and Christian Bullock in Edmonton not that many years ago, the partners all look like they are only around 30 years old.   They have expanded quickly with 15 locations already.   As of now there are eight in the Edmonton area, two in Calgary, one in Jasper, one in Vancouver, two in Toronto and now the newest on in Victoria.

Wednesday night was a training night, a dress rehearsal before opening to the public this weekend.   In general things worked well though a few minor glitches happened but I am sure those will be gone by now.

My biggest concern about the restaurant is how loud it is, there were times when the noise almost made conversation impossible.   We talked with the local franchise owner, Corey Arsenault, about this and I hope that he finds some way to soften the walls or ceiling so that the noise is not over powering.

Could I do this at home?  No, I can not cook the pizza at the temperatures needed and we do not have the right dough to make the pizza.   The gelato is of a quality that we can not do in our house, we would have to invest in a bunch of equipment to make it.

Will we go back?   Yes because it will work better for us with the kids than Prima Strada.

  Famoso Neapolitan Pizzeria (Market Square) on Urbanspoon
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