With the number of restaurants I have yet to try in Edmonton, it’s a wonder I ever make it back to the establishments that I think are deserving of a return visit. So it sometimes helps to have a sweetener. In Famoso’s case, it was in the form of a $50 certificate I bid for in an online auction. Having paid just $32 for the certificate, I thought it was quite the steal.
After a long day at work, Mack and I took the bus to Famoso (11750 Jasper Avenue), and on the way back, intended on walking off the glut of calories we would consume over the course of the evening. We walked in, and were both taken by how busy it was on a random weekday – there was just one table remaining, which we snagged immediately.
While not much had physically changed inside the restaurant, the vibe and the ambiance showcased a more refined Famoso ready to woo patrons from a higher age and income bracket. Gone were the college-esque instructional photos demonstrating how to fold and eat their thin-crust pizzas, as were the deli-style microphone announcements for order pickups. In their place were sleek, professionally photographed shots of sophisticated women enjoying a meal, and table service provided by two buspersons. Famoso had also added a reserve wine list to their menu, inviting patrons to linger and stay on to finish an accompanying bottle of wine with their pizza – a shift from our early comparison to an eat-and-go sandwich joint. Wednesdays now saw a weekly wine tasting event from 6-8:30pm, and the past few months have blossomed with a promotion they call “Famoso’s next Top Chef”. Referencing the popular reality television show, customers can submit their idea for a Neopolitan-style pizza for a chance to have their creation served as the pizza of the month at the restaurant.
The cheery and energetic staff person who took our order said that business has been swift for about a year – probably just picking up prior to our last visit. She was exceptionally helpful and enthusiastic about her work, and was someone Famoso should definitely reward – servers like her are an asset to an organization. At any rate, we ordered (at the counter – that much hadn’t changed), deciding upon the Margherita Pizza, with cherry tomatoes ($11.50) and the Sweet BBQ Chicken ($14), a pizza with a smoked BBQ sauce, roasted chicken, gouda, tomatoes, red onion and cilantro.
We sat down (by this time, a booth had opened up, meaning that there would be at least some light cast on our table), and a few minutes later, our pizzas were brought directly to us. After tasting a slice of Mack’s pizza, I realized I should have probably be more adventurous and chosen something a little off the beaten path. I loved the smoky, tangy sauce, which reminded me very much of the base used on Panago’s Tropical Hawaiian pizza. The Margherita wasn’t bad though – between the chewy, soft dough, and the lovely melted circles of fresh mozzarella, I was definitely enjoying my second Famoso experience.
Sweet BBQ Chicken
Though we were both pretty stuffed from our individual pizzas, I pressed on and ordered a Nutella Pizza ($7). The chocolate calzone-like dessert was the real reason behind my second trip, as it sounded intriguing when I saw it on the menu the first time around. After ordering it at the counter, we sat back and waited. When the plate was delivered, a table nearby looked on with jealous eyes – the prepared calzone had been cut up into easy-to-eat slices, drizzled with chocolate sauce, and finished with whipped cream. The combination of warm, chewy dough and nutella was a good one, but by the time we had each consumed a few slices, we were wishing for an additional accent ingredient like bananas or strawberries. The platter was definitely meant to be shared by more than just two.
My first visit to Famoso led me to believe that it was aligned with producing pizza for the fast food market, but after my most recent experience, I’d recommend it for a casual business lunch, a date, or a place to catch up with friends. I credit the owners with developing the brand into one I can see continually expanding in the Edmonton restaurant scene.