Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
When I was 14, I was lucky enough to head to Italy with my family where I experienced some of the best foodie memories I’ve ever had. It’s funny, but authentic Italian fare is hard to find, even when you’re in the heart of Italy itself; swarms of visiting tourists encourage the growth of pizza chains that make food as devoid of love as the restaurant feels towards their own product. When you love the food you’re making, it shows.
Famoso, in Uptown Waterloo conveniently located next to the square, attempts to change all that. A strong combatant to all of the tired pizza fast food chains catering to the student population, it offers a hipper, classier alternative to eating pizza than the kind you get in a takeout box and eat in front of your TV. It takes itself seriously too; ingredients are flown in from Italy, and baked for no more than 90 seconds in their impressive wood-fired bell-shaped oven. Warm and inviting with a modern flair, rustic wooden furniture accents cold steel lighting in this restaurant.
Ordering the Diavolo pizzeta (a 7” pizza opposed to an 11” pizza) along with the gorgonzola salad combo, the pizzeta was a bit small for the $17 price tag. However, the salad was rather good, delicately coated in a gorgonzola and walnut vinaigrette. The cheese itself could have been crumbled up more — as gorgonzola is rather bold — but cranberries added a special tartness and texture to the dish, making for a well-balanced bite between the salad’s oil, cream, and crunch. A decadent experience, it proved that salad can be a guilty pleasure with ingredients other than bacon bits and croutons.
The pizza on the other hand was unfortunately a letdown. Only mildly spicy, the ingredients — soppressata (spicy salami), spanish chorizo, capicola ham, roasted red peppers, and house-made chili oil — were all rather good and fresh. However, the dough was soggy from the get-go; it dripped with oil and saturated my lips with a light sheen, making it extremely difficult to eat, while the crust was doughy and required considerable effort to chew. Between the oiliness of the salad and the pizza, I had to guzzle many glasses of water just to keep going.
After this unfortunate experience, Famoso’s gelato is their saving grace, as they offer interesting rotations of gelato flavours ranging from the conventional Nutella to the seasonal fig cheesecake. Settling on the dark chocolate salted caramel, I instantly knew I’d made the right decision. A flavour explosion, the intensity of the dark chocolate was tempered by the caramel’s sweetness, while the slightest hint of salt enhanced both flavours. It was extremely creamy and coated my entire tongue, a deliciously sensual affair that I loved and brought me back to nights eating gelato canal-side in Venice.
Famoso claims to have been inspired by love, its co-owner Justin Lussier having fallen in love with pizza from Naples, and being so moved as to bring it back to Canada. However, with its lacklustre fare and such a high price tag, this restaurant was a far cry from the memories I had of the melty, cheesy goodness with perfectly cooked dough that I’d had next to the Tower of Pisa. A good but slightly tired attempt at being different in Waterloo, Famoso has a long way to go to show me the authentic Italian experience they claim to serve.