Famoso Neapolitan Pizzeria: New Pizza Joint on the Drive
1380 Commercial Drive, Vancouver
New on the Drive is Famoso Neopolitan Pizzeria, housed in a rustic brick building right on the corner of Commercial and Kitchener. Joining Diana, Sean, Amy, Knowlton, Tien, Dee, Tess, Mary, Dave, Ann, Erin and Sherman, I attended Famoso’s media party a couple of weeks ago. It was one of the most well organized media parties I’ve ever attended, lots of fun, laughter and of course, good eats!
As soon as I walked in a fruity and bubbly Italian spritzer was handed to me. Handsome and charming owner, Justin Lussier greeted us and immediately gave us a tour of the restaurant, pointing to photos on the wall taken on his trip to Italy where he learned the secrets behind Neapolitan pizza making. The secret is in the crust! Famoso is one of the only pizzerias that imports refined ’00′ Caputo flour for their hand-stretched pizza crust. The tomatoes for Famoso’s famous sauce is made from tomatoes imported from the Campania region of Southern Italy and fior-di-latte whole milk mozzarella is used as a pizza topping as well. Basically, Famoso does not skimp on ingredients. Nestled in the corner of the open concept kitchen is the prized stone pizza oven. Justin explained that it was a custom-made oven, he and his staff had cracked and glued the chiseled stone pieces to the surface of the oven themselves. Apparently it only takes a mere 90 seconds to bake a Neapolitan pizza in these stone ovens.
When we sat down, we ordered a few appetizers. To order at Famoso, an order form has to be filled out and handed in at the counter.
My favourite appetizers were the prosciutto wrapped mozzarella balls, baked in Campania tomato sauce. The mozzarella cheese was melted and beautifully gooey on the inside, oozing out in a thick, delicious glob as I speared the ball in half. The silky prosciutto was delicate, salty and tasty. A perfect thin wrapper for the mild tasting cheese.
The Mediterranean Flatbread we ordered was also delectable. Soft and chewy, baked with garlic, oregano, feta and lots of extra virgin olive oil. The flatbread was wonderful for dipping into the Campania tomato sauce served with our prosciutto wrapped mozzarella balls.
I couldn’t come to an Italian restaurant without ordering my favourite cocktail, a bellini. Nothing goes better with thin crust pizza than a fizzy peach drink!
We decided to order four pizzas, one from each category on the menu. From the Red Pizza category (Authentic Neapolitan pizzas), we ordered the Funghi Tartufo pizza for Diana’s love of mushrooms. This pizza features roasted white mushrooms, oyster mushrooms, white truffle oil and reggiano parmesan. I am actually not the biggest fan of mushrooms but I did love the delicious truffle oil drizzled all over this pizza, it gave the thin crust pie a rustic, earthy depth. The stretchy, gooey reggiano parmesan cheese was also scrumptious.
For some variety, we ordered the Famoso Salad which had a bit of everything in it: romaine lettuce, prosciutto crisps, carrots, cherry tomatoes, spicy sopressata, fire-roasted chicken, feta, and dijon-balsamic vinaigrette. I loved this salad, the meat made it a well balanced meal. You can probably eat this salad as an entree, it would be very filling for one person. We shared it amongst us, I obviously hogged all the meat!
We also ordered the Margherita pizza in the Red Pizza category (Authentic Neapolitan pizzas). This was my favourite pizza of the night. I love classics! This pizza, as everyone knows is named for Queen Margherita of Italy in 1889 and the ingredients also happen to reflect the three colours of the Italian flag: bright red tomato sauce, white fresh mozzarella cheese and green basil leaves. Nothing beats melted, gooey mozzarella cheese on a thin crust Margherita pizza. The tomato sauce was also rich, thick and perfectly seasoned.
From the White Pizza category (Authentic Neapolitan pizzas), we ordered the Prosciutto Arugula since we all loved prosciutto. This classic pizza featured lots of silky prosciutto, arugula and pecorino romano. I thought there would be more sauce on this pizza. Nonetheless, I loved the ribbons of prosciutto. The fresh arugula really helped cut the fatty cured ham and the lemon wedge was a nice touch. The pizza crust really was paper thin and crispy on the sides and on the bottom. No sogginess here.
From the New World Pizzas section of the menu, we ordered the San Andreas which was labeled as Famoso’s new Spring and Summer item: featuring Bianca sauce, fresh mozzarella, chili-lime marinated roasted chicken and topped with avocado slices, diced roma tomatoes, diced onion, cilantro, and drizzled with light cream.
I’ll eat anything drizzled with light cream. However, I found the chicken just a tad bland on this pizza. All the other ingredients made up for it though. The perfectly ripe avocado, the sweet and juicy roma tomatoes and fresh cilantro. Since this pizza was laden full of ingredients though, it was pretty floppy when I tried to pick it up. I had to eat it with a knife and fork.
The fun part of the evening started when we were all called to the open concept kitchen for the formal programming of the night. Owner, Justin Lussier took the stage and thanked his co-owners and family and friends for support. Justin also told his guests how he came to fall in love with thin crust pizza during his Italy trip, and how he made it his goal, along with Famoso’s co-owners to bring Neapolitan pizzas to Canada. The most entertaining part of the program was when Famoso’s head Chef demonstrated how to make the perfect pizza, starting from making the dough and tossing it, cracking jokes and entertaining the crowd the whole way through. Pulling the Twitter-famous Erin Gee from the crowd, he gave Erin a quick run-down on pizza dough tossing, from how to hold the delicate raw dough, to stretching it and finally flinging it into the air. She tossed it like a pro! It was totally fun and entertaining and I learned some things about pizza making. The head Chef at Famoso could have his own stand-up comedy show.
After the formal programming was finished, we returned to our tables for the best part of the meal: dessert!
I had to order an Affogato: a shot of espresso on top of scoops of gelato. At Famoso, you can choose from their flavoured gelatos for the Affogato, I went with vanilla bean and chocolate flake only because they didn’t have hazelnut on hand. All their gelatos are made from seasonal ingredients and the flavours change monthly. Hopefully they get hazelnut soon! My Affogato was still rich and delicious with the flavours that I chose, the gelato was smooth and sweet and the coffee was deep and nutty. The perfect ending to a pizza dinner!
We also sampled the other desserts on the menu including the Dolce and Banana (clever name!): oven-roasted bananas coated in caramelized brown sugar with crushed pecans, caramel sauce and vanilla bean gelato. I loved the rich and creamy gelato and Tess couldn’t get enough of the sweet and gooey bananas. It was a great combo but even I thought the dessert was over-the-top rich. It was definitely a share plate!
Another dessert we shared was the tiramisu, a traditional Italian cake made of mascarpone cream on a sponge cake base, drenched with espresso, and sitting in the middle of clouds of fluffy mascarpone cream. Cheese and coffee in one dessert, how can that be bad? This was my second fave dessert next to the Affogato. I loved the light cream against the sponge cake made denser by all the cheese and coffee, it tasted like the best mixture of bittersweet coffee with the decadent tangy sweetness of mascarpone. We were supposed to share this dessert but I’m pretty sure I ate most of it.
Also on the table was the creative dessert called the Nutella pizza: made from Famoso’s trademark pizza crust with Nutella spread and lots of whipped cream and chocolate drizzle. You can also order this dessert with bananas. I loved that the dessert was warm when it was served, the melted chocolate spread just oozed out messily when we bit in. It was sweet, nutty and delicious. This is another great share plate.
Our last dessert was the Pineapple Panna Cotta, a new Spring and Summer item. This panna cotta was a lot lighter than I had expected, then again, I had just consumed three other rich and heavy desserts. If you love tropical flavours, you’ll love this fruity panna cotta, featuring chunks of pineapple and coconut shavings. The coconut shavings surprisingly infused some strong sweet flavours into the dessert.
Not only did Famoso deliver a fun and entertaining evening, but when we left, we were each given a media kit and a little basil plant. Mine is still by my window sill. What a thoughtful little party favour!
I had such a wonderful time at Famoso! Diana and I were still munching on some of our leftover pizza the next day. I look forward to future visits to this new and exciting pizzeria on the Drive!