Facci Ristorante

$$$$ ($15-$24)

Editorial Review

Tom Sietsema wrote about Facci for a February 2010 First Bite column.

When he looked close to home and couldn't find the kind of pizza he grew up eating as a youth in Naples, Gino Palma-Esposito took matters into his own hands and opened Facci in Laurel.

"I wanted to do the real, real, real thing," says the restaurateur, who turned one of his three area eateries known as Pasta Blitz into a 92-seat dining room and wine bar whose open kitchen is dominated by a massive stone oven from Italy.

The "real thing" means using Caputo-brand flour and San Marzano tomatoes, and cooking his pizzas for no more than 90 seconds in a 900-degree, wood-stoked fire. The result is crisp, yeasty and a little smoky. ("I'm the best customer in the place," cracks Palma-Esposito, who admits to a daily pizza habit and co-owns Facci with his wife, Pilar.) Quattro Stagioni, one of nearly a dozen choices, is a 10-inch margherita pizza with a different topping on each quarter: black olives, grilled artichoke hearts, Italian ham, red peppers. It's busy but also delicious.

Pizza is the main attraction, but it has lots of company on a menu that runs to 70 or so dishes. Orecchiette Vittorino, ear-shaped pasta with fennel sausage and broccoli rabe, is a reference to the owners' 9-month-old son, Vittorio. Angel Hair Sophia Loren is a colorful tribute to the movie star, who grew up in Pozzuoli, near the restaurateur's home town. The pasta is swirled with spinach, goat cheese, walnuts and a sauce made from red peppers. A pleaser among the meat dishes is veal saltimbocca, shored up with mashed potatoes and gently crisp carrots and zucchini.

The dining room is painted in colors -- mustard, olive, soft red -- that create an appetite, which is further whetted by the sight and smell of those pies. Next visit, I'll try the Mamma Lina, decorated with Gorgonzola dolce and speck. It's named after Palma-Esposito's mother and, says the son, it's "sweet like her," with grilled figs in the mix.

Dinner entrees, $11-$18.

(Feb. 3, 2010)