Monday, January 11, 2010

Facci Ristorante -- First Thoughts On The Soft Open

Facci Restaurant opens tonight with wood-fired pizza and Italian off Johns Hopkins Road, but Mrs. HowChow scored us seats on Saturday during the "soft open."

Facci's arrival should be big news.  The owners renovated a Pasta Blitz branch to add a bar, a wood-fired pizza oven, and an Italian menu aiming for a middle ground with prices low enough for casual nights but quality high enough for special food.

We got inside Saturday because Mrs. HowChow stopped that afternoon to stare in the windows, and the manager stepped outside to introduce herself.  She invited us to the "soft opening" where the chefs were learning recipes and the waiters were learning the ropes.

We gorged ourselves.  Started with the "Italian boat" antipasta platter.  Meats, cheese, toasted bread, grilled zucchini and roasted peppers.  It's an auspicious start because each piece was delicious, and each offered a distinct flavor -- charred zucchini, sweet peppers, salty cheeses.  The zucchini was tender with a vinegar bite.  The bread was perfectly brushed with oil, then toasted.  The stone and wood create a cozy spot, but, five minutes into dinner, we were talking about summer nights on Facci's patio with that antipasta and a drink.

Then, we moved on to white pizza and pesto-covered ravioli.  Again, stand-out flavors.  The pizza came with terrific cheese, broccoli rabe, and a unique sausage.  The ravioli were stuffed with smoked mozzarella and coated with a creamy pesto.  The pesto tasted like July.  Basil that put me again to thoughts of warm nights on the Facci patio.  Mrs. HowChow picked the ravioli because they were made in-house.  The kitchen makes the ravioli, the gnocchi and some of the other pastas.

They also, of course, make the pizza.  Facci imports tomatoes, flour and more from Italy, and they char the pies in a wood-fired oven.  They imported the oven as well.  The pizzas aren't huge.  They're $9-14 for six slices, and they come with an array of cheeses, meats and vegetables.  I loved the pizza.  I also photographed the crust for the Pizzablogger, who saw promise:

It's hard to tell. The pic certainly shows the pizza was most likely cooked at an adequate/good temperature (700-800°F floor likely) from the char...which appears to be pushing being burnt in the upper left of the pic. More importantly is the overall golden tone of the slice in your pic. This is (hopefully) indicative of a good amount of sugars being naturally released from fermentation and being present at the time of firing the pizza.....those sugars being what caramelize and color the crust that color, which would most likely mean some degree of developed flavors in the crust from fermentation by-products.
That overall golden tone could also be indicative of sugars being added to the dough while mixing, be it cane sugar, honey, diastatic malt or some other additive....which could lead to an overly sweet tasting crust.
In short, the pic shows some promise and I am looking forward to going there very soon!
Facci is aiming at an exciting niche.  Less expensive than Greystone Grill or Azul 17, but more unique  than straight casual places like Bon Fresco and An Loi.  Appetizers and salads run $5-11.  The pastas run $9-14, and the meat dishes top out at $13-18.  It's a place you could justify any day, but delivers enough for date night.  (Seriously, Mrs. HowChow loved the ladies room.  Modern sink and cool open faucet.  It's a date-night bathroom.  Just ask for a date-night table in the dining room because the bar televisions loom over the other half of the room.)

We went to Facci with no expectations, and it was a terrific experience.   Stuffed with that much food, we have turned down dozens of fine desserts.  I was headed that way until Mrs. HowChow heard that Facci makes it's own canoli.  Crisp shell and a filling that tasted of vanilla and cream.  A strawberry sauce that tasted like fruit.  A spectacular end, and we were already planning on a return with RDAdoc and family.

I look forward to other people's views on Facci Ristorante.  It's unique  in my eyes, and I hope they can keep the quality up every day.  The Pizzablogger recently posted about the inconsistent pies at Coal Fire Pizza, and I'm really aware that serving good food can be hard business.

Facci Ristorante (as of January 2010)
7530 Montpelier Road
Laurel, MD 20723-6014
(301) 604-5555


NEAR: This is on Johns Hopkins Road just west of Rte 29. It is a shopping center that includes 
La Palapa Too and Kloby's Smokehouse. This is just south of Columbia and just north of Fulton.

35 comments:

woodsie said...

CanNOT wait for this to open! My wife really likes Coal Fire Pizza, but I've always thought it was kinda "meh".

Combine a new place with much-less driving goodness for us -- we live in the Colesville/Cloverly area -- and this could be our new go-to place for 'za.

Leeann said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Leeann said...

Sorry- typo on the first comment.

This restaurant sounds wonderful!

When is the official opening date?

Anonymous said...

The official opening date is January 11th.

The pizza tastes just like the ones I've had in Italy.

Pizzablogger said...

@ananymous: which pizzerias in Italy does it remind you of?

HowChow said...

@Leann -- Facci is open for business. The official opening is today -- January 11, 2010.

Anonymous said...

In Rome there's a little place called Luzzi's -- a hole in the wall with terrific food, which does Roman-style pizza (a bit thinner crust, but still based on the classic Neapolitan-style). I will eat pizza every night at Luzzi when I'm in Rome. I dream of that pizza.

We've also eaten at Pizza Rei, which is one of the more well-known places in Rome for "classic" Neapolitan-style pizza, rather than the Roman style. In Naples, we've eaten at Di Matteo and di Michele.

Need a good voice? said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stacy Lyn said...

I randomly called to get takeout on Saturday night...they were in the middle of their "soft opening," but said they didn't mind me ordering something. So, I just took the bartenders suggestions and got a Margarita Pizza and a Wild Mushroom White. The latter was delicious. It had truffle oil on it and some ricotta, wild schrooms, and mozz cheese. Loved it. The Margarita was tasty, too. Nice, thin, but chewy crust. As a fan of 2 Amy's in DC, I enjoyed this greatly and it will be a staple for us!!

Jason said...

We were there for the soft opening and had the Italian boat, the cheese platter, the Bianca Nieve pizza, the seafood pasta dish (I can't remember the name) as well as a couple bottles of wine. We wanted to try and "sample" as many different menu items as possible and pair them off. The end result was a three hour taste-bud joyride in a romantic environment with my wife and it didn't hurt my checkbook either.

Anonymous said...

Lunch today was so so at best. Sorry but I really wanted to love this place but wet lettuce spoiled the salad. Pizza was soggy too - puddle of oil under the slices we ate. I'll try again & hope that it will be close the other meals described.

RDAdoc said...

I stopped at Facci tonight and originally planned to pick up pizza. They didn't have a take out menu yet but said I could look at the regular menu and place an order. We ended up staying to eat. The waitstaff were all very friendly and enthusiastic about the changes to the restaurant. I had the white pizza with broccoli rabe and it was yummy! I asked the waitress if I could get it without sausage but she forgot to tell the chef. When I got it I didn't want to make a big deal so I just took the sausage off. She later noticed the mistake and was very apologetic. She was also very patient with my son who was a bit cranky at the beginning of dinner. Being Italian and having lived in Baltimore where there are amazing Italian restaurants I am a pretty tough critic of Italian food. I was quite pleased with Facci and am really looking forward to going back and trying more dishes. This is the 1st restaurant in Fulton that I've been excited about!!

Pizzablogger said...

A thing to keep in mind about the pizzas here:

Facci is, to the best of my knowledge, the first pizzeria attempting to offer Neapolitan pizza in that area of Howard County, if not in all of Howard County (and indeed much of the Maryland based DC suburbs).

This style is confusing because many pizzerias mention "Neapolitan" on their menus, but are not selling pizze Napoletana.

Something specific to a Neapolitan pizza is that it is, for lack of a better word, "wet" when compared to many other pizza styles. The very hot wood ovens necessary to make Neapolitan pizza causes the fresh mootz (fior-di-latte)and olive oil to get a tad runny and also to pool towards the center of the pizza, which can result in a "messy" pizza. The softer flour and thin undercrust of this pizza style can also lead to "tip sag" and a good deal of sauce, olive oil and cheese on you if you are not careful! This is one reason many people eat this style of pizza with a knife and fork or fold it "a libretto" when eating it by hand....but that's another story.

One way to alleviate this pooling and "wet" effect is to let the pizza rest for a minute or two before eating it. But even still a Neapolitan pizza will indeed be wetter than other styles of pizza. Understandably some people do not prefer this, but it is an issue related to the style of pizza, not necessarily with the individual purveyor of the pizza itself. --K

Anonymous said...

Website is now up:

www.faccirestaurant.com

Anonymous said...

Can't wait to try it. I agree with Pizzablogger about style of pizza. I lived in Europe for 5 years and haven't found good knife and fork thin crust pizza in the 'burbs. I hope this is just like in Italy.

Anonymous said...

Went last night. Yummy. The bar was lively with nice bartenders which made the almost hour wait go by quickly. Appetizers are half price at the bar until 7pm. The pizza margherita was quite good. Chewy thin crust with a nice "goo" in the center. We'll be back.

Penn said...

Facci...is an excellent addition to the Howard County area. I was there Thursday and ate at the bar ($1.00 of drinks and half off appetizers). I started with the mussels which although were slightly overcooked, the sauce was delicious. I ended with the meatballs-which were seseasoned perfectly, lying in a delicious sauce and very tender. Pro's: Great ambiance, Excellent flavors, Lisa (the very personable Mgr)and James and Joey who handle the bar. Con's: They're a little skimpy on the wine pour and could go slightly higher on the glass. With that said, I will definitely be back! **I didn't order the pizza(this time)but it looked AMAZING!Welcome to the neighborhood!

Jeremy said...

Went for lunch today and loved it! Had the Savarese pizza (meatballs, smoked mozzarella, caramelized onions, pine nuts, gorgonzola) which was delicious. It was an interesting mix of flavors that worked really well. As others have mentioned, the pizza was "wet", but I rather liked it that way. The bartender said the Wild Mushroom pizza was his favorite, which the couple next to me ordered and loved (they also went because of this blog, btw). I can't wait to go again. I'm thrilled that we finally have an outstanding pizza place in HC.

Anonymous said...

Even though others were able to place take out orders I was told no. It will be about two weeks until they are setup for take out. I stopped by to order a couple pizzas for take out. It was 5:15 pm and the restaurant was not busy. The hostess told me they want the food coming out of the kitchen for the seated customers. She should have not said that with many open tables behind her.

Anonymous said...

The food was delicious. Everyone ordered different selections, and everyone agreed their food was delicious. The waiter was also very nice, helpful on selections, and knowledgeable. The prices were reasonable. However, the service was terrible. The waiter mixed up the drink orders, and things went downhill from there. The worst part was how long it took for the food to arrive. I'm reasonable, but waiting 45 minutes for our food was unacceptable. I do hope they offer take-out. Next visit will definitely be take-out.

Anonymous said...

So the pizza is soggy because of the style - I get it. But since I'm in the crispy camp, I'll be heading to Coal Fire (or 2 Amys in DC) for my pizza fix. Entrees - again, so so. Sorry, but I want to love the food & I don't. But the overall atmosphere is lovely. And I will be back for that.

Anonymous said...

Being italian and from Chicago also working in the restaurant business I overheard two customers talking about "Facci". I decided to try it out with a friend. I loved the warmth and coziness of the restaurant. Started out with the shrimp gondola and then we had the vegetable flatbread and the traditional margherita pizza it was amazing and we are planning our next trip backto try the "wild Mushroom" pizza. As for the staff: James the bartender and Lisa the manager really made this dinning experience a memorable one.Im hoping they put one on Baltimore next !

fultie said...

Went to Facci this past Thursday evening, the place was packed. There was a nice vibe going. After sharing light and tender fried calamari (good), along with mozzarella caprese (just ok), I turned my attention to the quattro stagioni pizza. I hadn't read pizzablogger's post and so didn't know what Neapolitan pizza was supposed to be like - I just sat there wondering why the front of each slice was so limp LOL (I ended up reverting back to knife and fork). Olives on the pie packed a punch. Will try the wild mushroom pizza next time. Like previous posters noted, the ambiance is very nice. Looking forward to visiting this place again.

Jess said...

Boyfriend and I went for lunch today -- I thought it was awesomely yummy (the boyfriend is more a fan of deeper-dish pizza, but he still liked it all the same). I grew up in New Jersey and have been trying desperately to find a pizza place that comes close to that style. Facci gets the style down, though with more upscale toppings. The fennel sausage was absolutely wonderful. We ordered the Franco Palma (sausage, ham, and salamino) and the Salsicca e Rappini (sausage, parmesan and broccoli rabe). Great sauce, lovely droopy pizza. We also got the carpacchio for appetizer, also tasty, and a cannoli for dessert. My only real criticism is that they used spray whipped cream for the cannoli -- I'd rather have had fresh/homemade whipped cream. In all, I was a happy, happy camper.

Anonymous said...

Paul and I were first turned away at 9:45pm this evening because the kitchen was closed, but then the owner ran after us (as we were getting into our car) to tell us that we could still have pizza. We had the wild mushroom and quattro stagionni pizzas and we were truly sated. The thin crust reminds me of the pizza I had in Tuscany 2 years ago. (from Becky in Maplelawn)

jennifer said...

The food there is incredible and you can't beat the prices. We have been there 3 times and haven't been disappointed. Appetizers are scrumptious, portions are large and the staff is warm and friendly. Can't wait to go back. The menu is large and so much more I need to try.

Anonymous said...

Awesome Neapolitan pizza and terrific Italian food selection!

Jeremy said...

Took the whole family there today for lunch. For those with kids - they have a few kids options including an unexpectedly large margherita pizza. I had the prosciutto panini and my wife had the ham panini. Both were delicious, with thick, perfectly toasted bread, and didn't skimp on the ingredients like other places (Pazani). They also came with homemade potato chips which were exceptionally light. I would have preferred a bit more seasoning on them, but that's a minor complaint. I should also mention the outstanding service - their waitstaff appears to be more experienced than what you see at other places (i.e. no teenagers). Oh, and they put fruit in their water pitchers (my wife got a cherry in her glass). If they're able to keep the quality consistent, this will be a standout place.

FiveString said...

Based primarily on the comments here we visited Facci last night. The food was outstanding - I enjoyed the Italian Boat antipasti plate followed by the Rapini white pizza. As a native NYer I knew how to fold my pizza to properly handle it :) My wife ordered the bruschetta, which was delicious and a generous serving size. Her eggplant parmigiana was spectacular; probably the best I've ever had in a restaurant. Very thinly sliced and delicately breaded without any sogginess at all.

My only complaint is that our waiter was competent at best. When my wife asked how to pronounce the wine she wanted to order he shrugged and said he didn't know. As we were finishing our entrees he barely broke stride to ask if we "needed anything else" and the next thing we knew the check was on the table. Not that we were still hungry, but it might have been nice to have been offered a dessert menu to look at or perhaps a cup of coffee.

That quibble aside I do recommend the place and we plan to return soon and often!

Sophia said...

I think Facci has really done a terrific job with the quality and value of its food and wine, and it obviously is exactly what diners have been waiting for. There's nothing like this in this area. It's casual enough for families to feel comfortable, and the food and wine and atmosphere feel a little more special than most places. It's not pretentious, and still fun and friendly. But I wonder why a charming Italian restaurant has three drinks called "The Bada Bing" "The Don" and "The Fugetaboutit" on its speciality drink menu. These seem geared for a lower-class bar with a different crowd instead of the more upscale atmosphere at Facci. (I've ordered "The Bada-Bing", and it IS delicious but I don't like the name. Can't it be changed to something more Italian and classy?)

Anonymous said...

My boyfriend and I ate here last night and were completely knocked out by the amazing food. We arrived at 6:15 and waited at the bar for about an hour until our table was ready.

While at the bar we chatted with a great bartender there, Joey, who gave us recommendations and helped my boyfriend put together a completely unique version of the talapia on the menu.When we were seated service was a little slow but so friendly and apologetic it completely made up for it. These seem like good people and I don't mind waiting for water when I can tell someone cares that I get it. Anyway, I ordered the homemade cheese ravioli in the pesto sauce and it rocked my world. Light, soft, perfectly balanced flavors as fresh as spring. I woke up thinking about it this morning and seriously considering a trip back for lunch today.

My boyfriend, who can be very critical of meals was misty-eyed when he bit into his tilapia. I've never seen him that impressed with a dish. When we got home he was still stuffed but he kept opening his left-overs for "just one more bite". Since I had picked the restaurant I was pretty pleased with myself.

We also shared the cannoli, which was the best I've ever had.

This restaurant is wonderful and I really hope to see it grow and thrive because there are just no quality Italian places anywhere around. I had originally planned to take us to Portalli's last night (the new Italian restaurant in historic E. City) but was warned by some friends that the food they received there was beyond not good - but actually disgusting...not to mention ridiculously over-priced. I was so disappointed to hear that, since I had long-hoped for a nice little Italian place with authentic, homemade food to open up near by. In Facci, we finally have that, and I for one am planning to go back again and again...

Cheers!

Anonymous said...

We visited Facci on last night for the second time in two weeks. We had to wait to be seated but it was worth it. We started out with the Shrimp Gondola and the Italian Boat, which were half price and it was amazing. The sauce that they use for the Shrimp was out of this world. Our waiter Mike recommended the Sante Ema Merlot, which we ended up having two bottles of. We also had the Pizze Nutella and the canoli. The service was outstanding and the atmosphere was equally as good, I will be back for sure.

Anonymous said...

Wanted to try this place but when we tried to get takeout tonight we were told we couldn't. Take out menus still not available. Not sure we'll be going back.

Kayte said...

We ate at Facci last night and we thought the food was outstanding. I got the Fettucine Romano and was blown away. The sauce was amazing. My husband had the Margherita Pizza and he thought it was incredible. Our friend had some sort of Seafood Alfredo dish that smelled amazing. He loved it, and I plan on trying it the next time we are there. I'm also super curious about the Italian Boat App. I will definitely be trying that next time.

So, the food was good, but we ended up getting seated right by the bar and our waitress was also bar tending. She didn't seem like the happiest person, and I feel like our service wasn't as good as it could have been if we were on the other side of the restaurant. All in all though, we thought it was a great place and we definitely plan to go back.

Julie said...

I was very excited to go to Facci for the first time for lunch today based on your reviews. All I can say is that I should've re-read your reviews before going, I would've ordered the ravioli instead of the shrimp scampi. There was very little flavor in the scampi and the 3 shrimp that I did get were rubbery. The bread that they brought was amazing, the caprese was excellent and the taste of the wild mushroom pizza (snagged from my friends plate) was really good. Just stay away from the shrimp scampi!