Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Pizza With Clams, And It's Not A Joke; Facci Ristorante Has Created Something Special
Facci opened in early 2010 on Johns Hopkins Road, and the crowds immediately packed the place for casual Italian and wood-fired pizza that stood a notch above most places around. It became so crowded -- and the hostesses were trained to be so uninviting -- that we stopped even thinking about the place.
They won us back this year with expansion. More seating, longer menu. We tried carry out from the dedicated entrance. We walked in a few nights. If anything, the food has gotten even better, and we love a place where you're guaranteed a special night.
Imagine a pizza with clams on top. Littlenecks in their shells. Honestly, it sounded like a gimmick, but it tasted superb. Sweet shrimp and parsley, then a few dozen clams. I pulled those off by hand, and they were plump and salty even though the fire had cooked them through.
Facci's kitchen gets a head start with all the pizza because it starts with their spectacular charred crust. But then they assemble just a few toppings -- mozzarella and basil, mushrooms and speck, pistachios, ricotta, red onion slivers and rosemary. The ingredients are special. Cheese and sausage and meatballs, each a little better than I'd expect at a regular Italian restaurant. Then they pair up the flavors in a way that I wouldn't think to do at home.
As I wrote almost two years ago, one of the stars is the fresh house-made pastas. The ravioli and gnocchi are Mrs. HowChow's favorites, although she loved the mushroom risotto that offered a stunningly-rich flavor and far more cheese than I use at home. She was ecstatic.
You can work the entire menu picking great dishes from $12-20. We have worked through several salads, once creating an entree by adding a piece of salmon that was perfectly cooked. None of well-done fish that my nervous hands grill up at home. Facci got that perfect interior that's not raw, but still jewel-colored and moist.
The restaurant is beautiful inside, a full step above most casual joints in a shopping center. You get stone-tiled walls and an open kitchen with the pizza oven on full display. With the expansion, there are great tables along the perimeter and a high-tech system to dispense wine by the glass, and you can enjoy good weather on the small patio that they have landscaped out front.
People go to Facci for fun. It's an adult crowd, even at the bar. It's kid-friendly. It's just expensive enough that you get more gray hairs than car seats, more Moms-night-out than first dates. But people are there for fun. Enough fun apparently, that, during our most-recent visit, a woman walked out of the stall in the mens room. A very moms-night-out woman who found three guys using and waiting for the urinal and said something like "I think I'm in the wrong bathroom." Yes, ma'am, but you're in the right restaurant.
Click here for all the posts about Facci, including the cannoli that I love. Remember Richard Gorelick's list of the Best Restaurants in Howard County, where Facci came in 14th. My only complaint -- as you can see above -- is that the lighting is too dark for cell phone photography. If you ever find Facci full, walk down to Kloby's for casual barbecue and great beers. Or try any of the restaurants in that shopping center -- Mexican, Japanese, Indian, etc. They're all busy enough to warrant checking out.
7530 Montpelier Road
Laurel, MD 20723
NEAR: The key fact is that Facci isn't in Laurel. It's in a shopping center on Johns Hopkins Road just west of Rte 29. This is the same shopping center as Kloby's Smokehouse for BBQ or La Palapa Too for Mexican, so expect the lot to be full at prime dining times. Often they have valet parking. This sliver of land is south of Columbia and north of Fulton and Scaggsville, but it certainly isn't Laurel.