Friday, 20 July 2012

Famoso Traditional Neapolitan Pizza Impresses in the Annex

There are delicious moments and then there are delicious moments you will never forget...Pizza is one such moment.

Ever since I was a young kid growing up in Mississauga, my parents have always tried to put their spin on western food. One food that I enjoyed was pizza a la my parents…thick and gooey good. It wasn’t a totally typical Italian pizza but I loved it. Time passed and my taste buds have grown up, matured and my love for pizza has just kept on growing!  Throughout my university years it was what my roommates and I lived on...just picturing the mountains of pizza boxes!

Fast forward, as I went through culinary school and experienced different cuisines from all over the world I learned the basics of how to make great pizza. I even worked at a traditional pizzeria for a time and really learned the importance of the crust, simplicity of toppings and the tradition behind pizza. My work experience opened my eyes to the culinary world of Italy and inspired me to travel. Having been to Venice, Rome, Pompeii, Sorrento and Naples…I can honestly say I have a pretty good idea what real traditional pizza tastes like and I love it.   

You would imagine that living in Toronto, with its large Italian population finding traditional pizza like back in the old country would be simple. You would be wrong.  There are so many differing opinions on what makes a good pizza is as there are stars in the sky.  The latest addition to challenge for best pizza in Toronto opened in The Annex and is called Famoso. On a recent visit to this new restaurant that emphasizes tradition, adherence to quality traditional ingredients and great taste it delivers on almost all counts.

As the story goes for how Famoso came to be:

“Years ago, on a trip to Naples, we were introduced to the taste of true Neapolitan pizza and the classic pizzeria. It awakened our pizza taste buds and we just knew we had to share this with our friends and family back Famoso, our version is inspired by Neapolitan pizza in its truest form, using Caputo ‘00’ flour, imported Campania tomatoes, fresh basil, fior-di-latte, and a fire roasting bell-shaped oven.” 
Justin, Jason & Christian, Founders of Famoso

As the evening began, we were introduced to a unique way to order, we were instructed to seat ourselves, menus available on the table and when ready asked to order at a central counter.  This is a pretty brilliant method to ordering, it ensures speedy service, I can see this being a hit with the hectic lunch crowds. Your order is brought to your table and any follow-up is via the server. This was a new way to do things and I liked it.
We started our meal with a few drinks an Aperol Spritz, Lemoncello Martini and a lovely Mojito.

Then our starters came from our server and we were immediately impressed with the selection.  We received an order of Roasted Kalamata Olives, lovely marinated kalamata olives garnished with oregano, feta and chilies. What surprised us was what a punch of flavour is created with the simple action of roasting them and serving them warm. The flatbread was stellar, seasoned and warm and oh so good!

We ordered a series of salads and they were fresh, flavourful and generous. We ordered a traditional Caesar salad with prosciutto crisps instead of bacon. This we liked. We also ordered a Gorgonzola Walnut Salad and one of their signature salads the Blackberry Arugula Salad. As with the Caesar we liked all of their offerings and would most definitely order any one of them again.

As with many restaurants that I visit I look for that one standout appetizer that is a must have. At Famoso, I highly recommend the Prosciutto Wrapped Mozzarella Balls. These little tasty bits are perfect for sharing with your dinner guests.  Fresh mozzarella wrapped with prosciutto, baked in Campania tomato sauce, fresh basil and pecorino romano cheese served with warm flat bread! If you love gooey cheese and the salty goodness of prosciutto you gotta have this. Divine!

Now, getting down to the business of things…the pizza. This is after all why we are all here.  The menu is broken into two principle categories Traditional and New World. Yes, I know that they emphasize tradition…you wonder why they would offer New World Pizza? A purists would shudder and even turn their back to even the remote suggestion of anything not tradition…I’m not certain, all I can think is that they are trying to satisfy a world of tastes of all kinds.  Sometimes, traditional pizza with its minimal ingredients doesn’t compute with more western tastes.  But I digress…on to what we ordered that night.

We ordered a Funghi Tartufo a beautiful pizza consisting of roasted white mushrooms, oyster mushrooms, white truffle oil, reggiano parmesan over a beautiful tangy non-cooked tomato sauce. The sauce is perfect, simple, full of flavour and authentic. The mushrooms are earthy and tasty, I love mushrooms on pizza.

Next, we ordered what I consider the ultimate test for any pizzeria that boasts that they are the best…The Margherita.  A traditional pizza named after Queen Margherita of Italy in 1889. It is in its simplicity that makes this a challenge. Fresh mozzarella, fresh basil, pecorino romano and extra virgin olive oil. That’s it…no spicy sausage, no pineapple or grilled chicken. Simplicity, simply beautiful. You can really tell the quality of the ingredients, the tomato sauce is excellent, the mozzarella is stringy and gooey, the pecorino provides a bit of a salty bite making this pizza a good rendition. Not excellent but good. I would have preferred the crust to have been baked just a touch longer. There was a bit of disappointment in the level of sogginess in the centre and I believe that the basil was baked on top of the pizza as opposed to how it should have been just added on its way to the table. But it was tasty and good. The quality of the ingredients stood out, it is only in the execution that I feel that the kitchen will have to tweak. 

The last pizza we tried was one that sparked all of our interest; it falls into the New World pizza category. It was very popular amongst many that were noshing down on delicious pizza and drinks. The San Andreas is a Californian inspired pizza. Bianca sauce (white sauce), fresh mozzarella, and chili-lime marinated roasted chicken. Baked, then topped with fresh avocado slices, diced roma tomatoes, diced onion, cilantro, and drizzled with light cream. It was in a word delicious! The traditional thin crust made with the ‘00’ flour blends well with the new world ingredients to make for one very tasty pizza. This was a winner. I will order this again in a heartbeat. 

 As our pizzas were devoured our thoughts turned to something sweet to finish our meals. We ordered a series of desserts that I will have to say flat out…wonderful and delectable each and every taste. This came as a surprise but a very welcomed one indeed! We ordered ALMOST the whole dessert menu one item after the other…it was just that good!

The Dolce & Banana was one that is very easy to share – oven roasted bananas coated in caramelized brown sugar, crushed pecans, caramel sauce and vanilla bean gelato. This was a fun dessert to breakdown and share. It almost boarders on being too big for one. Loved it!

Nutella pizza was up next, this was flying out of the kitchen and was very happily devoured by the guests in the resto. Simply it is their awesome pizza crust that is smothered in Nutella, folded calzone style and served with whipped cream and drizzled with caramel sauce. This was mind blowing good enough to share but I wouldn’t want to in the future, I love it that much!

We finished with an Affogato this was such great goodness in a cup! A shot of espresso on top of a scoop of gelato sounds simple…it is…but very delicious. I crave this now always.
There are two locations for Famoso in the GTA area please check their website for other locations.

Famoso – The Annex
386 Bloor Street West,
Toronto, ON
M5S 1X9
Twitter @FamosoPizzeria

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