Restaurant Review: Famoso MacKenzie Towne

>> Friday, June 1, 2012

Recently there have been more and more conversations between my husband and I about where we live. It has gotten to the point where we’re considering moving closer to downtown, mainly to avoid traffic and Deerfoot.  Of course the atmosphere, being closer to the core and the accessibilities of great downtown restaurants also helps. So I was pretty shocked and excited to hear about Famoso coming to our neck of the woods, needless to say we’ve needed a good pizza place in the south for a while now and maybe now I can actually walk to a restaurant for a change.
Atmosphere: Open and airy, with high ceilings in the dining area to the open kitchen design. This pizza eatery is meant to be spacious and relaxing.

Price Range: Mid $10s - $20s

Food and Drinks: We had the honor of attending the soft opening of the MacKenzie Towne location where they allowed us to sample anything and everything off their menu. Lucky for us we were able to meet up with YYCBestEats, which really opened up the tasting opportunities!

When we entered everybody was greeted with their new cocktails which Famoso has created for their spring/summer menu. There was the Sangria, normally made with red wine but Famoso also put a twist on it by adding Grand Marnier and orange Italian soda. I really enjoyed their Italian Spritz consisting of prosecco, aperol, soda and flavours of blood orange. Both were very refreshing and would be great on a patio! They also went really nicely with the Roasted Kalamata Olives (or so I heard, not really an olive fan here).

It was very tough deciding on what we wanted to try since everything sounded so delectable! Since the menu is sectioned off in to appetizers, old world red and white pizzas and new world pizzas, we decided to try an item from each. We started with an order of the Proscuitto Wrapped Mozzarella Balls. When the dish arrived the mozzarella balls came in their famous hand made tomato sauce, perfectly seasoned and great for dipping with the chewy pita bread.

To make sure I was also getting my greens, I ordered the Blackberry Arugula Salad. It was a really nice balance of sweetness from the blackberries, saltiness from the goat cheese, crunch from the pecans and acid from the vinaigrette. Not to mention the peppery arugula combined with the fresh garden greens. A slice of pita also accompanied the salad, which I again dipped in to the tomato sauce.

I had to remind myself not to eat too much of the addictive pita bread because the pizzas were coming! The first one being the Capricciosa, was from the Authentic Neapolitan Pizza portion of the menu. It consisted of Italian ham, roasted mushrooms, artichoke hearts, and olives all on top of their basil tomato sauce. I really liked the combination of mushrooms and ham with a bit of the artichoke to cut through the heaviness. This created a nice blend of salty earthiness. It was a bit hard to grab the slice of pizza though because the crust was a bit soggy. I think this is due to the fresh tomato sauce, which packs more water content and is less pasty like other places. Fork and knife were definitely required to eat it.

We also tried the Funghi Tartufo Pizza, which also featured their traditional pasta sauce topped with oyster and white mushrooms, truffle oil and reggiano parmesan. Truffle oil and mushrooms are a match made in heaven, but I didn’t get much truffle flavour on this pizza unlike some others I’ve tried. The pizza itself was good, with a nice chewy texture in the crust and lots of mushrooms and cheese, but it was missing that extra bit. I think some arugula or spiciness would have elevated it a bit more.

From the Pizza Bianca section, we had the Primavera featuring lots of smoked mozzarella, roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, mushrooms, olives and onions. It was a bit similar to the Cappricciosa since the toppings were comparable. However I preferred this pizza more so because the crust was a bit sturdier and the roasted red peppers provided some extra sweetness.

Next up was the special Smoke Salmon New World Pizza created for the spring/summer menu topped with red onions, smoked salmon, capers and a dill cream sauce. I was surprised at how flavourful the pizza was. The dill and capers really added a nice tang to the overall flavour combo and complimented the smokiness of the salmon. It was a favourite across the board and I’d definitely order it again.

Although we were thoroughly stuffed by now, we were told that they served Fiasco Gelato on site and featured it in their desserts like the Dolce & Banana, which is definitely one of my favourite desserts at Famoso. Bananas, caramel sauce with Fiasco’s vanilla bean?! Sold! I also had to try the Affogato, which is a shot of espresso with vanilla bean gelato, a great way to incorporate the after dinner coffee in with dessert. It was creamy and reminded me of a rootbeer float…espresso float! Yum! Afterwards I had to go up to the gelato counter, purely to make sure I was getting a good overview of all the different flavours they were offering of course. Some of my favourites included the espresso, fior de latte and burnt sugar banana. If you like chocolate and you like bananas, you’ll love that gelato.

After dinner, the owners also provided a short overview of how Famoso came to be. Starting from a dream after a European vacation through Naples, which was quite inspirational. The Chef also gave an overview of how the pizza is prepared using special imported 00 flour and Campania tomatoes from Italy. There was a demo on dough tossing and lucky me was pulled up on stage (remember to self, hiding in the back does NOT work).

My Picks: Blackberry Salad, Primavera Pizza, Smoked Salmon Pizza

Overall: Everybody at the table really enjoyed themselves. The evening was very interactive. The servers had really good recommendations and the food tasted just like the way I remembered when we visited Famoso on 4th street (consistency is key). I just wanted to say thanks to Famoso for moving down south and bringing a bit of the core to my area of town. Maybe one day we’ll move to the inner city, but at least for the moment we have a bit of the core coming to us.

Famoso Neopolitan Pizzeria – MacKenzie Towne
5 High Street SE
Calgary, AB
(587) 352-5566

Famoso Neapolitan Pizzeria - McKenzie Towne on Urbanspoon


Anonymous,  June 12, 2012 at 6:43 AM  

Is it the same franchise as the downtown Famoso, on 4th Street?

Bonnie Huang June 19, 2012 at 1:24 PM  

It is! FBoth 4th street and MacKenzie Towne serve the same menus.

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