Famoso Brings Authentic Neapolitan Pizza to Vancouver’s Little Italy

Fast, custom, quality Neapolitan pizza in the heart of Vancouver’s Little Italy is a surefire formula for success

Credit: Famoso

Famoso’s Neapolitan pizza is baked in a domed oven cranked to 900F; an authentic Neaoplitan pizza takes only 90 seconds

Fast, custom, quality Neapolitan pizza in the heart of Vancouver’s Little Italy is a surefire formula for success

At first glance I thought: super, another Neapolitan pizza joint. Where am I? Is that the Gulf of Naples or the Burrard Inlet? Do I spy Mount Vesuvius or Grouse? Erm, does that seabus go to Capri or Bowen Island? You get the idea.

But Famoso Neapolitan Pizzeria, which opened doors on Commercial Drive April 15, has irrevocably changed Vancouver’s Neapolitan pizza game. Famoso is doing for pizza what Vera’s did for the burger. Take notice. The Vancouver pizza scene will never be the same.

With an Italian-made, domed oven cranked to 900F, an authentic Neaoplitan pizza takes only 90 seconds. Customers queue at the counter to place orders, then take a seat. Servers bring food and drinks to the tables in no time. I think I got my tires changed too… The formula is fast, custom quality – similar to LA’s out-of-the-gate success 800 Degrees Neapolitan Pizza.  

This new world meets old world model offers the best of both realms. Famoso stocks authentic pizza toppings like fresh, whole milk mozzarella and sopressata alongside novelty toppings like white truffle oil and smoked salmon. The options are endless. The service is swift. And the quality stands up to the authenticity tests. With these essential boxes ticked, you may never endure slow table service for good pizza again. More on pie authenticity below.

Classic margherita ($11) with fresh mozzarella, fresh basil, pecorino romano and extra virgin olive oil. (Image: Famoso)

Famoso’s Origins and Authenticity

Although Vancouver’s pizza renaissance peaked in 2011 (think Nicli Antica, The BiBo, Pizzeria Barbarella, Novo, Pizzeria Farina, Campagnolo Roma, Via Tevere, etc.), Famoso’s owners were comparatively ahead of the curve. The story is the typical “I stuffed my face in Europe where everything tastes better” scenario.

In 2005, owner Justin Lussier ate at Pizzeria Sorbillo – one of Naples’ finest pizzerias. He returned to Canada with a vision. He gathered some partners. He trained at the Associazione Verace Pizza Naploetana, which is considered essential or a scam, depending on which pizza industry insider you ask. He opened up shop in Alberta and has since expanded to BC.

Famoso’s first Vancouver location is a team effort between the Famoso boys and East Vancouverite Brian Goheen situated unapologetically in the heart of Little Italy. “Little Italy is absolutely the best place for us to be,” says general manager and owner Ryan Chilibeck.

When explaining how the concept differs from neighbouring pizza establishments, of which there are many, Chilibeck says: “People make the mistake of confusing authenticity with tradition.”

Famoso’s Lussier has reengineered the pizza restaurant but not the essentials of Neapolitan pizza. He talks about the required ‘00’ Caputo flour used in the dough. Famoso also imports tomatoes from the Campania. The oven may not use wood, but it creates the requisite blistered, crispy-chewy crust.

Funghi tartufo ($14.5) with roasted white mushrooms, oyster mushrooms, truffle oil, reggiano parmesan. (Image: Famoso)

Reviewing the Famoso Menu

My date and I started with the prosciutto-wrapped mozzarella balls. While the soft, fresh cheese paired with charcuterie is as good as it sounds, the balls are served in a dish of sweet, mildly acidic tomato sauce that steals the spotlight. We used the last of our flatbread to mop it up and ordered more Italian sodas, although a bottle of Birra Moretti was tempting. By the time the Famoso patio opens this summer, it will be irresistible.

The sauce was barely gone by the time two pies landed on the table. We tried the classic margherita for a reasonable $11. The sauce continued to shine (apparently it’s just tomatoes carmelized in the oven with a sprinkle of salt) and the mozzarella was above average, although the pizza crust (soggy) would have benefitted from another 30 seconds in the massive oven, visible in the rear of the restaurant. I’ll chalk that up to opening week and expect Famoso to figure their equipment out soon.

Meanwhile the pizza bianca – proscuitto arugula with pecorino for $14.5 – was superior to the rosso. Famoso’s choice of extra virgin olive oil really shone through and the arugula had the peppery kick of local organics, rather than the mild supermarket arugula I’ve come to loathe.

Prosecco, Aperol with a splash of soda water. (Image: Famoso)

There are many alluring ways to put an end cap on the Famoso experience. Opt for boozey spritz aperol or limocello lemonade, a family-friendly gelato float or go for multiple scoops of hand-made gelato with espresso. No matter what your over-eager server says, I promise you, you won’t be able to fit the Nutella dessert calzone.  

It remains up to Commercial Drive residents to love or shun this new pie slinger at 1380, depending on their own sense of loyalty, tradition and authenticity. If the crowd there last Friday was any indication, they’ve already rolled out the welcome wagon.