For all the crap that the media has put us through with respect to healthy eating and low carb diets over the last decade, you wouldn’t think that the food wars playing out in the streets of Calgary would have anything to do with of all things – Pizza. But pizza is in fact the buzz of Calgary’s food scene, that and poutine of course.
If you go to Urbanspoon’s Calgary page you will quickly notice that two of the ten “talk of the town” restaurants are pizza joints, including Famoso Neapolitan Pizzeria in the number one position. You will also notice that under best fine dining, Ristorante Pulcinella is ranked third. Given the quality of pizza being put out by these two restaurants this is really no surprise. Both use the Napoletana standard when it comes to how they cook their pizzas. The Napoletana standard outlines many aspects of how to cook authentic Neapolitan pizza, including the type of flour (“00”), cooking temperature (800°F), 90 second cook times, and the use of fresh basil to name a few.
The taste and structures of these two pizza joints flatbreads could not be more different however. Pulcinella tends to have a thinner crust, uses mostly cured meats, and has what I love, a slightly burnt crust. To me, the charred flavor is what sets Pulcinella apart, that and the sometimes dismal service. It is not uncommon to have a poorly trained server at Pulicinella mix up an order, or worse poor wine from a bottle into a glass that contains a completely different wine. The latter of these two mishaps has happened to us twice when in large groups, where a waitress picked up a random bottle off the table and without asking started topping up random glasses that appeared to have the same wine merely because they were also red. This treatment of wine as water shows that there is good intent, but a complete lack of formal training at what many consider a fine dining restaurant.
Famoso on the other hand takes a completely different approach. They have steered away from full service all together, putting the emphasis back on the pizza. At Famoso you are seated, you pick what you would like, go to the counter to order, and then the food is delivered just like it would be at any other restaurant. When you are done they clear your table for you and bring you the bill. I love this concept because there is no waiting for a busy server, no being interrupted during conversation, and no pressure (unless of course from your dining partners) to order on someone else’s schedule. Furthermore, Famoso’s much bigger rotating oven cooks upwards of 11 pizza’s where Pulcinella’s only cooks four. For a much smaller restaurant this means much faster service and all pizza’s showing up at once rather than being dispersed, as is the case when you go to Pulcinella in a large group.
Famoso also offers what they call “New World Pizza’s”. Instead of sticking to the classic Italian pizza’s, they make an attempt to offer something for everyone, mixing the old with the new. Their Bianca sauce, which is olive oil, garlic, and oregano, is to die for, especially on their Pollo pizza. However, even with the variety of flavors, I can’t take my mind off of the charred taste that is synonymous with Pulcinella. While I love everything Famoso, that charred taste is what will keep me returning to the slightly less customer friendly, and slightly more expensive Pulcinella. But who am I kidding, you will probably find me at Famoso quite often as well.
Pulcinella what we like
- Charred Flavor
- Original Napoletana restaurant in Calgary
- Location – Kensington
Famoso what we like
- Great Service
- New World Pizza’s
- Bigger Oven
- Location – Mission