Friday, April 9, 2010

Link: Facci Gets Written Up By The Sun

The Sun's review of Facci went up on the Web today -- and should be in the newspaper Sunday -- as JJ alerted me.

I'd suggest that you go tomorrow to beat the crowds, but the crowds already found Facci.  Richard Gorelick really liked the place, especially a pasta with clams and a meatball appetizer.  Ironically, we tried to eat at Facci on the same night he went, but we got turned away because they couldn't make a table for six at 5:45 pm on a Tuesday.

I love Facci's food, and the casual, classy atmosphere makes it one of my favorite places.  But my recent visits haven't involved the fun that Gorelick describes.  If you get a seat, everyone is so nice.  If you're in line, the hostess and managers are all defensive.  We know there are no reservations.  We don't understand why we get a vibe that is more "take it or leave it" than "we want you to join the fun."  For the last three visits, the atmosphere was unwelcoming enough that we ate somewhere else.

As Trip Klaus pointed out to me, Facci also got a post in Washingtonian -- also highlighting the meatballs.  I'll try them eventually.  I'm really underplaying our unhappiness -- and the details of how we were treated -- because I know that we'll eventually go back.  Maybe we're the only people feeling the vibe.

(Update: From the comments, I see I'm not the only one feeling the vibe.  To be clear, I really like Facci.  I even think the parking is fine.  Circling for five minutes isn't that different from driving somewhere, and I love that there are four successful restaurants there.  But I can really enjoy Facci's food while joining in the great anonymous line below: "Waiting could be just as much fun as eating.")


(Update II: I have been reading the comments below.  Yes, several read like Facci employees defending their place.  Let's just take it with a grain of salt.  Real people are commenting too, and YumPo and one anonymous poster traded civil opinions.  That's worth keeping the comments open.  You can judge the other posts by their tone and their content.)

35 comments:

Rida said...

We made a weekday visit to Facci recently, before 6pm. We were not welcomed by the hostess, but rather told abruptly they could not tell us how long the wait was...very defensively. All I said after giving our name was, "Can you tell us how long?" I wasn't asking for a reservation, only an estimate. We ALWAYS ask that just to get an idea. When we sat (less than 20 minutes later), the staff was prompt and efficient, but not friendly at all. Our food was lackluster, and we won't be going back. In all, a disappointment for us. I have no idea what others see in this restaurant.

Anonymous said...

we felt unwelcome there too. we've gone a little bit before the huge popularity there. when we were seated it took forever for them to come back and take just our drink order. Our waiter would come by and say he'll be right with us and then we see him having a conversation with another guest at the bar.

It also took them forever to give us bread. We asked him for bread and he said a fresh batch was just about to come out. We then see him automatically bring out bread to the table next to us... and they sat after us. Service there just seams very 'fake'. one moment they're your best friend and the other minute they want you out.

K8teebug said...

We went there a few weeks ago and I thought everyone was really nice.

Honestly, the meatballs are good, but not as good as the pizza. I thought they were missing a little something.

Anonymous said...

As I commented in an earlier thread about this restaurant, there is a definite feel that they can't be bothered with your petty wants and needs. From the no carryout, to the no reservations, there is a pervasive feeling that they believe they should be in NYC or SF or anyplace but here, suffering through these poor unwashed masses of humanity.

The food is decent, but give me Luna Bella any day over these smarmy bastards.

DanaSr said...

Met friends there on a Saturday at 6pm. First problem; four large eateries with a single shared parking lot that any one alone could almost fill. Could not find a space to park till finally, after circling the lot for 5 minutes a space emptied. They couldn't say how long we'd be waiting. So we left and went elsewhere. Have no idea as to the food there or at the other eateries at the same location and probably never will. There are plenty of places with plenty of parking. It's a shame for the whole collection, looked like some good possibilities but who designed the parking?

Anonymous said...

Have to agree, okay food, bad management in the dining room. Very casual attitude towards entering guests and a take or leave it air that does not play well in parts south of NYC.

I suspect it may be a result of most of the previous experience the owners have is from seat yourself, order from the cashier restaurants. Most of the staff in his other shops are mostly cashier and bus boy staff and have little interaction with guests, many times due to language barriers.

Wish them well, but bad service will usually trump food quality.

Chrysalis said...

We were there between the two big snow storms, when parking was a *really* big problem. We parked next to the gas station and walked down. But once seated [no wait] our waiter was attentive and we even received a visit from the manager, Lisa Passalacqua. After a short friendly chat, she gave us her business card and asked us to contact her if we ever had a problem or question. A friend and I are going to have dinner there on the 15th, at 4:30 p.m. We noticed that getting there after 5:30 p.m. means a very long wait. I sincerely hope they expand into the empty [looks like storage] space a door down from them. They have the customer base to fill it and excellent food to keep everyone happy.

Anonymous said...

I also experienced the unwelcome vibe on my first visit. When I tried to give the place a second chance and realized right away from the greeting or non-greeting at the door the experience was going to be the same, I left for another establishment where I was happy to leave having had a good meal and happy to tip the server a little more for a pleasant dining experience. In this economic climate, nobody has to put up with lackluster service when other good establishments go above and beyond. It's a buyer's market.

Anonymous said...

I've been there 3 times & have been underwhelmed by each. Food is okay - nothing close to the glowing reviews. Waiting could be just as much fun as the eating. Why else would anyone wait at cheesecake factories? Good reviews have clearly gone to their head.

HowChow said...

@Chrysalis - You're so right about expanding next door. Maybe I should temporarily give up my offer to help build Wegmans and see if I could whip people up to expand Facci. More seats would be terrific.

@Anon 7:49 - I love the line "Waiting could be just as much fun as eating."

danita said...

we ate there last night and got the last table. i thought the food was pretty good, but i did notice there was nowhere for people to wait. i agree, they could expand next door!

Empress said...

Went to Facci on a Friday night for the first time and I am coming back today. Wow, what an amazing place. Lisa, the wonderful and friendly manager greeted us warmly and so did Gino, the owner. Our server, Allyson was superb. The food was just as good as that I have had in Italy. The appetizers were wonderful (best Oysters Rockefeller and Calamari I have ever had). And the best part is that from 4 to 7pm every day the appetizers are half price. The wood burning oven is from Italy, as is the Caputo flour to make the pizzas (best ever) and the tomatoes. Had several dishes, lasagna, salmon, salads, vegetable flatbread, and all of the dessert was homemade and better than Vaccaros or any other place in little Italy. What a wonderful and welcoming atmosphere. Everyone was so friendly and the patrons were mingling with each other. A great place to make new friends. I will be there again and again and all of my friends are coming with me next time. Facci is a first class operation, beautiful inside and with a welcoming and very top notch group of people who are willing and able to accommodate any needs of the customers.

Anonymous said...

You left the word "fun" out of the quote on the frontpage Update.

HowChow said...

@anon - Whoops! Thanks. I fixed the quote!

@Empress - Thanks for the comment. If you keep blogging, let me know so I can link to posts about local food. Watch out for the details though. I believe some of the desserts are *from* Vaccaros. Love those canolis.

Sanz said...

Empress is clearly a Facci employee or possibly the owner. Instead of spin maybe you should read the comments posted here and make changes to your service.

YumPo said...

As a frequent diner and a person who contributes to other restaurant blogs, I can't help but shake my head in wonder a bit over some of the commentors and their negative comments. It seems that they have expectations that are impossibly high after reading the original excellent reviews, and have a "show-me" attitude where nothing other than total perfection will please. Instead of going in with an open mind and understanding that that folks at Facci (or any restaurant) are human and are trying to deal with overwhelming crowds, day after day, they expect to have an absolutely perfect dining experience and focus on all the flaws rather than on the things that are good. When I go out to dinner, I expect to have a good time, I am prepared to like what I eat and drink, and the way I'm served and treated. I don't expect to be treated as if I'm better than those who have been waiting longer by getting in sooner, nor do I try to change my order seventy different ways from how it's written on the menu. Unless my server is totally indifferent or snarly-mean, or dumps my food or drink on me, or gets my orders completely wrong, gives me food I didn't order AND argues with me about it, I'm not going to write a horrible review. Too many people in the Howard County/Baltimore/Washington area have a sense of entitlement when they go out to eat, which I've not seen as much in other places where I've lived and traveled. Grow up, people. It's just lunch and dinner, and these are humans who are making it, not perfect robots at your command. Most of them are trying to make an honest living, and before you criticize them unfairly, try doing their jobs for a day or night. It must a tough job for not a lot of money.

Anonymous said...

Well, I'm not made of money and eating out is a treat. I expect people to be good at their job, or at least do it to the best of their ability. No one is forcing them to run an Italian restaurant. But if they choose to, criticism comes with the territory. If they are so busy they don't need my money, good for them. I'd rather go some place where they respect that I choose to spend my hard-earned money at their establishment. Where I have traveled and lived, most people can't afford to eat out every lunch and dinner, and they certainly don't put up with attitude. Also, this is a foodie blog. For a lot of us here, food is not "just lunch and dinner."

Anonymous said...

WOW...i have been to Facci several time and for SOME reason I keep going back! I am reading some of the comments and am in disbelief.. First of all, let me say that you are not going to be totally satisfied 100% of the time and if you are 95% of the time that is awesome..which i have been. for a place that has only been open since January and has a 1 hr. to 1hr. and 1/2....someone is doing something right!!! ENOUGH SAID...and mr., miss, or mrs. annoymous,,need i say more

Anonymous said...

you know I have to agree with the last annonymous....I have been there and had to wait, but I knew that and I expect it. My food has taken a little longer, but at the same time when you go into a rest. and see a wait, some things are expected. Our sever pretty much kept us updated and explained the wait, which I will say was well worth the wait. My wife had the sophia loren said the dish was delicious as well as our apps. good things are worth waiting for and this restaurant is worth the wait!!

HowChow said...

@ YumPo and the Anon responding -- Thanks for the civility in the comments. I appreciate the tone and the detailed opinions.

I figure YumPo isn't directly criticizing me since I'm just a few days away from being accused in other comments of being too positive and "pimping" places like Facci. But I'll be clear that I only mentioned this issue because multiple people have acted exactly the same way on different nights (not merely some momentary failure) and because the "take it or leave it" vibe was serious enough that we feel unwelcome.

Anonymous said...

Fascinating difference in experiences. It does make one wonder what kind of judgment calls are being made on customers and based on what.

Anonymous said...

Look, the pizza there is ok, but it's just ok. Peopl;e that think this pizza is the best ever are absolutely clueless when it comes to knowing what to look for in a good pizza. The cheese is scarce the sauce is very scarce and the size very small for the price. Service is clearly bad there. I am absolutely amazed that people think it's so good all around.

YumPo said...

Howchow, you are correct. I am not criticizing you, nor am I criticizing people who seem to want to point out the issues or flaws that can improve the experience at Facci. My words are directed at those who seem to take great joy in skewering restaurants in print rather than bringing issues to restaurant managements' attention. Have any of the commentors who have had issues with employee attitudes at Facci (or at any other restaurant) mentioned it to the manager or owner while they were there? Did you explain what your problem(s) was/were during the meal so something could be fixed if the food was slow, cold, unpleasant, or if the service was rude or too slow or too fast? In most restaurants, the manager will try to remedy the situation if it's something that can be helped, and if you ask pleasantly and politely. More often than not, they will bend over backwards to make your experience even better than you had hoped. To think that Facci's management doesn't care about the complaints, after all the time and money that must have been put into that restaurant-- a real Italian-made wood-burning oven, those pizzas with the imported ingredients, a creative and fun menu at a perfect price point -- it makes no sense. There's no "New-York attitude" there-- probably just some very tired, overwhelmed people, trying to fix things as best they can but always having too much to do and never enough time. Sound familiar to anyone?

My point was yes, this is a food blog and yes, food is important to all of us, but it's not life or death. It's not like losing a parent or a dear friend. Getting my bread late, or not at all, is not going to ruin my life.

How many of the commentors criticizing restaurants on the blog (not just Facci, which is so wildly popular and is getting the backlash now) are envious competitors? How many commentors have ever tried to wait tables, work in a restaurant kitchen, hostess, or run a restaurant, let alone one that is hugely popular from the start and is trying to work out the kinks as it matures?

Pizzablogger said...

@ananymous (4/12/2010):

The amount of sauce and cheese used on this pizza and the size of the pizzas being served at Facci can be found at any myriad of pizzerias in Napoli which have been serving this style of pizza since before (some by decades)Lombardi's opened the first licensed pizzeria in America in 1905.

The prices are indicative of the ingredients used in the pizzas. I regularly purchase the same exact flour used at Facci and the same type of tomatoes and cheese (fior-di latte, bufala, etc)...those ingredients can cost anywhere from 30% more in cost to double the cost of ingredients more commonly used (Don Pepino, Stanislaus,Polly-O mozzarella, etc)by the majority of pizzerias in this country.

I'm not saying that makes a pizza "better" than another and I don't even think it is fair to compare a Neapolitan style pizza like Facci emulates against, say, a New York Style slice....it's an apples to oranges type comparison.

Nothing against Facci, but I would certainly agree that their pizza is definitely not the "best" Neapolitan style pizza out there. But at the same time I would think each individual would know what they prefer when they eat it, regardless to what someone else's opinion is. The people that like it have an opinion that is just as valid as those that don't.

It's always interesting to see the reactions when an establishment offers a style of something that is new to an area (even if that style of something is quite normal someplace else). To each their own --K

Anonymous said...

It's a food blog. It's supposed to have comments in the comments section.

No one said it was life or death, but this is a blog which many visit to learn about dining in Howard County and optionally peek at the unchecked views of others. Like any stopover on the internet, one needs to approach anonymous comments with caution and some skepticism. But, this small sample of views mimics my experience and so I give the prevailing views some credibility. I also think the competitors that may be here are balanced out by the owners and staff who also post overly defensive replies.

To those incredulous at the negative comments - be glad. Maybe it means less of a wait on weekends.

YumPo said...

Anonymous, you are missing my points. I never said people weren't supposed to comment, only that perhaps some commentors seem to prefer bashing restaurants in the blogs, instead of bringing their issues and problems to the attention of restaurant management when they are dining, when those problems might be addressed on the spot. Further, many of the comments are mean-spirited rather than constructive -- "smarmy bastards"? Just because someone takes issue with a restaurant having no reservations and no carry-outs? There are many restaurants in the area that provide neither service.

True, no one likes to wait an inordinately long time for a table and a friendly greeting by the hostess goes a long way. I would hate to be one of the hostesses at Facci-- I can't imagine how hard that job must be when customers' tempers are short and they are trying for hours to seat everyone, day after day, week after week.

Anonymous said...

Don't won't to began a war here, but...

My post referenced was that comments are just that, comments. One can have an opinion without having worked at a restaurant or addressing issues directly with the staff.

Aside from one or two posts, I saw no "bashing" here. Like many here, it appears HowChow's original comment sparked many to chime in on similar experiences once more posters dined there.

The posts here are actually pretty civil and the opinions are generally worthwhile - go over to some of the large print media blogs to see some real "bashing".

I have no axe (or dinner knife) to grind with Facci - it's just I also found the process of going there less than desirable and the food and service did not live up to the hype - which was probably gonna be hard to do anyway based on the early, breathless reviews.

As far as the hard job hostess do, that is a common job requirement at any busy restaurant - if you do it well, people will wait even for chain food (Outback, Carrabbas). If you do it poorly, it can effect the overall experience.

renfield1969 said...

The parking issue keeps coming up, but the strip mall that these four restaurants share fronts a large business park. Unfortunately, the company directly behind them with the incredibly large, incredibly convenient parking lot is just as unfortunately gated. But the rest of them are not. During evenings and weekends there is plenty of parking just across and down the street via a connected sidewalk.

YumPo said...

Anonymous, I understand your points and concur with some but you are still missing some of mine. I won't belabor them any longer since it really makes no difference. As my Italian grandmother said, "Opinions are like behinds-- everybody has one."

Anonymous said...

I work in the area and have walked over there for lunch a few times now. It can get busy around noon, especially the outdoor seating now that the weather is nice. I've not seen an actual line though I have had to wait a couple minutes while they seat someone ahead of me. The pizzas and pastas I've tried are quite good. Big complaint is their water with a small garden floating in it - lemon, lime, and maybe more. Having a citrus allergy, I'd rather they drop the overly fancy water pitchers and just bring a glass with a wedge of lemon that people can use or not use as they please.

Doug S said...

A friend recently found Facci and took a couple of us to dinner last night. We sat at a table and did have some issues being able to hear each other. Lisa, the manager, stopped by to chat and even she mentioned the music level. She indicated that she'd turn it down - I wasn't 100% sure if she had or not, but in hindsight, I believe she did.

The food was pretty awesome all around. We got 3 different dinners and 2 different desserts. We were all very happy.

I'd go back.

PlainJane said...

Husband and I went in this past Monday around 7:30 pm. Was a bit concerned after all the negative reviews, but I love Italian food almost as much as Mexican, so needed to give it a try. Was happy to see immediately that parking was not an issue for us.

My Sophia Loren was delicious (could have used more goat cheese). Husband's pizza was okay (he took a recommendation from the waitress that surprised me - not enough meat for him - Bianca Neve?). Service was great. "Lisa" stopped by to say hello. She promised to stop by again, but didn't. Can't say I was disappointed. She was pleasant enough, but I'm not there to socialize with strangers. Say hello, ask if you an do anything, and leave me to eat, please.

Overall, very pleasant experience, with good food. We eat out a lot, so it's always nice to find new spots.

BikeTraveller said...

Agree with Renfield1969 on the parking. Everybody is complaining, but within 50 yards is an empty day care center with plenty of parking and the big lot behind the strip center. I guess the day care center isn't an option during the day, but we've NEVER had an issue. I usually don't even try to go into the front lot on a weekend.

BikeTraveller said...

Went to Facci again a couple of weeks ago and I agree that it just isn't as much fun. Sitting behind us was somebody the owner knew and they got GREAT service and perks. But our server just seemed too tired or overworked. We sat at least 5-10 minutes before drink orders were taken. Everything was slow. We had to ask three people just to get water refilled on a 90 degree day where we were sitting outside.

Instead of trying to be the local neighborhood restaurant now that they are popular they seem to cater to the locals they like and the rest of of us just don't feel the love anymore.

I really want to go back as I do like much of the menu but I don't like feeling like the non-cool kid in class when the cool kids are getting all the attention.

It may just depend on whether you know somebody who works there or not. Hard to say.

Adam said...

Went for lunch today. First-timer. Did not like. Won't be back.

Started with the fry trio of sweet potatos, asparagus, and zucchini. Sweet Potatos had decent texture but lacked much flavor and could have really used better and more complimentary seasoning. Zucchini was too crusty and oily. Asparagus was scalding hot on the inside and watery. Sauces were an afterthought -- I had to ask for ketchup seperatly.

Did not expect the thin crust pizza to be literally covered in oil. I'm used to an "olive oil" drizzle, but our pizza of grilled figs and speck was oozing olive oil. I like a pizza with a crispy enough crust that I can pick it up, and this was a knife and fork deal.

Not worth it.