Several years ago, I thought about starting a food blog for the same reasons I just started one. I wrote a few pieces, one of which is below. This piece was based on a visit to Famoso in October 2006. I've been back a few times and can't say that it's gotten better. I prefer the cafe downstairs called M Cafe -- to be discussed in a separate post.


If you were wondering where the older, nouveau riche types were going to dine in hip, modern surroundings north of the District line, wonder no more! Famoso will serve the purpose quite well. It is not yet open for lunch but when it is, I suspect that the ladies-who-lunch will find their luncheon needs met here in between shopping jaunts at Saks and Neiman’s and every store in between.

Famoso sits atop the MaxMara store in Chevy Chase. Also in the line of stores are Ralph Lauren, Barney’s, Jimmy Choo, Gucci, Cartier, Dior, Louis Vuitton, among others. The whole strip of stores officially has been dubbed “The Collection at Chevy Chase”.

You must enter Famoso by elevator and upon entering, are at the doorway of a chic bar and lounge with a Euro-trash ambiance, a tad more severe than CafĂ© Milano in Georgetown. We did not have a reservation and the maitre’d escorted us through the almost-empty dining room to a table in the back. With our backs to the wall we could see the entire room, which was minimally decorated with manufactured art.

The restaurant started to fill up quickly and almost every well-coifed person who walked in had a two-kiss relationship with the maitre’d. I found out later that the maitre’d is the “Maitre'd extraordinaire Ralph Fredericks most recently of the Coeur de Lion at Washington's Henley Park Hotel.”

The menu was divided into the traditional Antipasti, Insalate and Zuppe, Risotti, Paste, and Pesce and Carne.

We ordered sparking water and Eric got a martini, dry, straight up with olives. He’s not fussy about his gin but is mildly disappointed when there isn’t any Plymouth. After a little back-and-forth about various gins, Eric settled on Beefeater. It arrived with three plump, stuffed olives. I point this out because we have a ritual of sharing the olives and these olives were odd. I tasted one after Eric and agreed it tasted fishy. We informed our waiter who informed the manager. The manager arrived at our table officiously and informed us that the bar uses various types of stuffed olives. Another waiter who had gone to investigate the matter just then announced that the olives were stuffed with anchovies. I’m not a martini drinker but Eric confirmed my thoughts that anchovies do not belong in a martini.

The waiter was apologetic and whisked over a glass of red wine for Eric, on the house.

While we waited to order, we noticed that glasses of champagne were brought to various tables around the room to diners with two-kiss relationships with Ralph. The man carrying the champagne was the sommelier. He carried two glasses of champagne with the fingertips of both hands and stuck his elbows out to the side, as if carrying a crown on a pillow. Another waiter followed behind him, carrying the champagne in just that precise way.

As you know, I don’t care for music – loud or otherwise – while eating, and Famoso plays its Euro-techno/new-age music loud. We were also sitting right under a brand new Bose speaker on the ceiling so that may have made it louder for us.

I had had a tough day (actually a tough week) and was in no mood to be adventurous. I wanted the old standbys. I picked the fried calamari (gran fritto dell adriatico con verdure croccantsi for $15) and the risotto parmesan (risotto con fagiano e tartufo mantecato nella forma di parmigiano for $29) and stuck with sparkling water throughout the meal. Our waiter, John, was terribly excited I was getting the risotto. He described the creaming of the risotto in a wheel of cheese. On the menu, next to description of the risotto, the restaurant had noted it was the “2001 Winner of the ‘Golden Spoon’ – Best Risotto in Canada.” (The chef, Gabriele Paganelli, is from Canada.)

The calamari was fried perfectly but had an anchovy aftertaste. I couldn’t figure out if the taste from the olive remained with me or if the calamari had been cooked with anchovies. Mixed in with the calamari were julienned pieces of zucchini, carrots, and eggplant fried in the same manner as the calamari, and a spicy tomato sauce.

In between courses, three women were escorted to a table near us. The most stunning of the three while floating to her seat, gushed seductively to the waiter: “Thannnnnk you sweetheart!”

As I continued to observe the drama in the room, the sommelier rolled the wheel of cheese to our table. He poured pure alcohol into the wheel and set it on fire. Other diners looked our way. He then ladled the risotto into the wheel of cheese (mentacato) and stirred for a few minutes before ladling it onto a plate. He showed me a truffle (“This is a truffle.”) and shaved it on to the risotto. I could tell the risotto would have been delicious if the chef just had not given it that extra dash of salt. It wasn’t an overpowering saltiness but it was too much. Eric disagreed; he said it was perfect.

Once we completed our main courses, we settled back and resumed people-watching. We had no dessert partly because we were full and also because the dessert menu was not impressive. Eric had an espresso and I had Jasmine Mist tea.

Final thoughts: I probably will not come back to Famoso for food but will definitely come back for a beverage in the lounge. I recommend that you do go there for the experience and ask for a table up against the back wall. There are a few tables where couples can sit side-by-side, which is nice.

The maitre’d was friendly enough but gave his full attention to diners he already knew. He came to our table a few times, appearing to do so under duress. It would have been perfectly fine had he not visited us at all.

During the meal, one waiter came to our table and observed I was taking notes in a small notebook. He laughed nervously and asked if I was a spy. I said that I was.

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