Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Pizza With Clams, And It's Not A Joke; Facci Ristorante Has Created Something Special

The weird part about Facci Ristorante is that I didn't go to a restaurant that I really enjoyed for the better part of a year.

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.

Facci Ristorante
7530 Montpelier Road
LaurelMD 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.


UhOhBadDog said...

Whoa that looks good, even at the breakfast hour! Have to agree, they are close by to me as well, and yet I haven't been by in over a year. This may just push me back, thanks HowChow!

RDAdoc said...

When I read clam pizza I wasn't expecting to see them in their shells!! There was a place in Philly that I use to get clam pizza (no shells) and LOVED! I will absolutely try theirs!!

RHfoodie said...

I've been wondering how long it would be before you posted about facci. I've been a few times trying to figure why you & others "love" this place so much. Never quite felt it. Just okay to me. And some of the most overpriced specials around.

We tried it since the expansion, didn't have to wait long, pleasant service & the food was "nice". Still no raves from me but I'm now willing to go back. Especially for a clam pizza.

Anonymous said...

I agree, the staff here are by far the rudest I have encountered in HoCo.

Anonymous said...

We went there one time and it was just okay. I understand the management has a history back to Rocky Run? I don't go in that parking lot anymore so I don't I have not even been to Klobys since their expansion.

HowChow said...

@Anon -- I actually have always thought the waitresses were nice if a bit spacey at times. It was hostesses who I swear were trained to be uninviting back when the place was always full. But they were completely friendly the last time that we visited. It made the entire night feel different.

Bobo said...

I love the papardelle bolognese at Facci! I prefer the bar to tables, even with a date, because the bartenders have been very friendly.

Anonymous said...

Clam pizza isn't really a gimmick. Pete's Apizza in D.C. does one with clams and garlic. They got their inspiration from the New Haven, Connecticut joints. I think Comet Pizza in D.C. does one, too. Anyway, Facci is the only place I've seen do that with the shells on. Not very practical, but cool presentation. I just tried Facci and was very impressed. Good crust and served on wood, which is key to keeping the crust crisp. I'll be back. By the way, try the Campagna pizza.

Gianni Morandi said...

Yesterday I went to Facci for the first time and it was love at first sight. I’m a big Italian drinker and to be seated in the wine room area made my whole night. Gino, the owner took me in the wine room for a tour and that was it. I saw all the great bottles of Italian wine they carry, like Gaja, Giacosa, Sassicaia, Casanova dei Neri and many others like Flaccianello and Dal Forno Amarone. All names that made Italy gain fame in the world of wine. I personally felt like a kid in a candy store. What a wonderful selection! The food was also very good and we were definitely impressed by the Bufalina Pizza made with buffalo mozzarella and the homemade meatballs. Facci is without any doubt a nice place where you can enjoy food and wine without paying too much. On our way out we noticed on the hosting stand business cards of a different place called Vittorio and the hostess told us that Vittorio will replace the Pasta Blitz in Glenwood. This new place will focus primarily on food and will have the same concept of Facci. I’m sure if they keep the same quality Vittorio will be other great success. Bravo!