Famoso is well known for serving Neapolitan-style pizza in a casual and relaxed atmosphere. Their pizza tries to adhere to the strict standards of the "Associazone Verace Pizza Napoletana," an organization that upholds the art of making true, authentic Neapolitan pizza. For Famoso, this means importing Caputo 00' flour straight from Italy, stretching every pizza dough by hand, using San Marzano tomatoes, and fior-di-latte or mozzarella di bufala (fresh mozzarella made with cow's or buffalo milk respectively). Their pizzas are then baked in their signature wood-fired, dome-shaped ovens at 900°F for 90 seconds.
I don't exactly remember when Famoso first hit the scene, but in the blink of an eye, their one location on Jasper Ave. quickly turned into two, which turned into three, etc, etc. There are now almost 30 locations across Canada, with 7 franchises in Edmonton alone.
LT (my sister), AL (my sister from another mister), and I arrived at the West Edmonton Mall location on a Thursday evening around 6. We were planning to catch a movie at Scotiabank Theatre at 7, and thought Famoso's would fit the bill for a quick dinner beforehand. Though it was cutting it close, we were in and out within the hour, missing just the first few minutes of our movie.
Famoso's is also well-known for their interesting service concept, which integrates both counter-ordering and full-service. At most Famoso restaurants, you would seat yourself at any empty table where menus will already be laid out. Peruse their giant menu, and whenever you're ready, head over to the counter to place your order, keeping in mind your table number. From then on, waitstaff will be bringing out your food and taking care of your table for the rest of the time.
It makes for somewhat of a disjointed dining experience, and because of that, I never really understood the concept. I mean, why couldn't they have just taken care of your table from the get-go? Even though that's my usual sentiment, the casual service does come in handy when you're in a hurry. And because we were in a hurry this night, by Murphy's law... they were implementing changes and offering full-service only, which took a little longer than we would have liked. Now, I'm not sure if this servicing change will be reflected in all Famoso restaurants, but it was certainly the case on this night at the WEM location.
But enough rambling -- onto the food!
Another change that Famoso unveiled recently (like 3 days ago even) was the addition of two new pasta dishes. Upon some encouragement from myself, LT decided to try one of them out and chose the Elicoidali bolognese ($13.50) which had artisan Elicoidali pasta, house-made beef bolognese sauce, and Grana Padano cheese shaved over top. Apparently Elicoidali is a fancy Italian word for helix, describing a tube-shaped pasta similar to rigatoni. My sister didn't even want to attempt the pronunciation when ordering.
Verdict? LT regretted not ordering a pizza instead. When I tried a bite, I could see why. It was basically thin, watery tomato sauce on lukewarm pasta...
I like you Famoso, but I think you should just stick to the pizza business.
For my order, I chose the same thing that I always get at Famoso's. The cavoletti pizzetta ($10.50), from their "pizza biache" or white pizzas category. All of the white pizzas are topped with a white sauce (duh!), which is a combination of EVOO, garlic, and oregano. Fior-di-latte, fresh basil, and pecorino romano finish them off. The pizzetta portion (roughly 7") is the perfect individual size and could satiate any decent appetite.
The cavoletti was actually the brainchild of a customer, who submitted a recipe that they wanted to see on the Famoso menu. Let me tell you, that person is a genius. The cavoletti pizza contains oven-roasted brussels sprouts, prosciutto chips, gorgonzola cheese, dates, walnuts, and finished off with a drizzle of honey. Sound like a weird combination? It strangely works. First off, the brussels sprouts are slightly bitter with a nice char while the proscuitto chips are salty and crispy. The walnuts are crunchy while the dates and honey provide a contrasting sweetness, giving the pizza an amazing "sweet and salty" vibe. I usually ask for the gorgonzola cheese to be left off, but since I forgot today, the gorgonzola just added some pungency in between some bites.
The pizza crust is thin, slightly charred, albeit a little too chewy rather than crispy. One pet peeve of mine is that the centre of the pizza gets a little too soggy due to the toppings, but I guess it can't be improved much.
AL also went for her go-to order which is the italian ham and crushed pineapple pizzetta with a side Caesar salad ($14.00). I've never tried the ham and pineapple at Famoso's before, but it's a tried and true, fail-safe combination so you can't really go too wrong with ordering it. Plus, AL really likes it and so I trust her opinion.
Overall, I like Famoso well enough. One thing for sure is that Famoso is quite consistent, making it a reliable option for eats. It has enough variety to appeal to anyone, making it ideal for families and groups, and really now, who doesn't like pizza?
Just don't order the pasta.