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Pulcinella and Fatburger in Calgary

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  • Gobstopper Apr 27, 2006 05:51 PM
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Just had lunch at these places over the last two days.

Fatburger was the destination of choice for my two nephews. In the midst of the monstrosity (or triumph) of Deerfoot Meadows, Fatburger seeks to conquer the rather bizarre food war going on in the area. The interior is remixed diner style. It has the same hollow ring to it that Krispy Kreme has - They want to look like Diner Deluxe, Lido Cafe, but they don't want to have to source out individual items.

The food itself is pretty much akin to Boogies Burgers. Onion rings were the only standout achievement, they are said to be made to order (I didn't see anyone slicing onions).

If forced to go to a burger place, I see little difference between Peters, Harveys, Boogies and now Fatburger. Maybe Harvey's doesn't belong on that list, but I doubt many could tell the difference blindfolded.

Pulcinella has beckoned since I saw the glowing Gilchrist review. That said I am not so overwhelmed by the use of products so exclusively from Italy (at least from a socio/political bent). The interior is much like Criterion (of Stephen Ave back in the day). Lots of white. The forno is tiled with a small mosiac tile which is quite nice. Bizarrely, like Muse, they have theatrical face masks hung here and there. Maybe it's a neighbourhood cure for "Bermuda Triangle" restaurant syndrome.

We ordered a couple of pizzas, the classic tomato and a prosciutto and mushroom. I was not suprised after having seen the photos that the pizza was quite wet in the middle. Even the folding trick doesn't save you after those crucial first moments have passed. The flavours were good italian classics and the prosc/mush pizza had a nice roasted piece of basil on it. The crust has great bounce and a wonderful ashen residue on the bottom. I think they depend on the parmesan to provide a bit of salt to the sauce, which wasn't quite enough in this case, and no s+p at the table. I believe that it's a fairly genuine representation of Naples pizza and I'm glad to have had it.

Divino makes better pizza.

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  1. I have only had an espresso at Pulcinella- from an absolutely GLAM Faema espresso machine. They use Illy, which I would have been very impressed by about 2 years ago but with as good a local roaster as we now have in Big Mountain I see no value added in using overpriced Italian beans. Still, it was a good cup in a very beautiful space.

    Now, as to Fatburger- I finally got to taste this place on Denman in Van over reading week in Feb and was happy with it, esp with the "fat fries," like "steak fries" of yore, just magnificent. Burger was very good. Now, we went to the Calgary one a few weekends ago and they've taken the fat fries off the menu! Damn them! But ya know, I had a double w/ cheddar at Burger Inn this week and I agree with ya Mike, Fatburger is not the second coming. HOWEVER, Burger Inn, the one of 4th at least, has ZERO ambience, it feels like a hospital cafeteria, and the burgers on paper plates with no trays is just a disaster waiting to happen, hard to handle and very unsanitary (tables get icky). But I can walk to Burger Inn.

    3 Replies
    1. re: John Manzo

      I agree about Buger Inn - atmosphere, paper plates = yuck, but the burgers are dam good. I prefer take out from there.

      Where is Fat Burger loacted in Calgary?

      1. re: JWh

        It's located in Deerfoot Meadows, the Big Box complex on Deerfoot just South of Glenmore anchored by the "new" Ikea.

        It's unfortunate not everyone has had a good experience with Fat Burger - the one that used to be on the strip in Vegas was excellent. I was really looking forward to it...

        As for Burger Inn, their Burgers are ok - but i love their fries. Fresh cut, with skins, in brown paper. Load it with salt and malt vinegar.... greasy heaven!

        1. re: Yen

          I've had a nasty ostrich burger from the Burger Inn that sidelined me for a few days - that said, the fries are excellent.

    2. I have to disagree about grouping Peters burgers with the likes of Boogie's, Fats, and (shudder) Harvey's. Peters stands alone as a great messy and simple burger. No messin around with junk food like lettuce and tomatoes, just gooey sauce, cheese, relish and mustard on a soft warm bun. Oh yeah, baby.

      1 Reply
      1. re: fingers
        m
        Marcus Dunning

        Ya no messing around with taste either... thats a luxury Peters cant afford apparently. Blandburger delux please. The Shakes are Peters only redeeming feature.

      2. I also sampled Fat Burger lately (with my Mum). Location suxs but if your out and about at ikea/costco etc. worth a stop - the diner atmosphere, while not orginal was fine. We both had "Baby Fat" Burgers and i thought it was step up from Mackers or BK or something. My Mum complained that it was a bit small for a hambourgie but I reminded her that we did in fact have the "baby" burgers so..... I eyed a dude close by chowing a regurlar size and it looked decent. It was a Thursday night at about 6pm and and we where one of the only three customers in there so i was a little disappointment with the 15-20min wait (unacceptable for "fast food" - I think).
        I totally think Burger Inn on 4th Street has the market cornered still. While I concur the atmosphere in the new place is lame, the old spot was the bees knees. Plus I love the dude that works there and has for like a million years. He's great and the service is fast, regarless of how busy. Plus you can always sit, chow and read fast forward while you eat.

        1. I too have a problem with the lack of flavour in the Pulcinella sauce (and toppings for that matter). When I ate there recently, I had to ask for salt. I was sharing a grilled vegetable pizza and there wasn't any seasoning on the veggies nor in the sauce. When I asked our server why she said that the kitchen relies on basil and garlic to flavour the sauce!?

          I agree nice crust but really just a so so 'za.

          1. went to fatburger first and last time the food there is over rated you do not get the value for your dollar.

            1. Re: Fatburger.

              Salty and Sour. I love mustard as much, possibly more, than the next guy, possibly gal, but I found the Fatburger a little hard to take. To much salt, possibly seasoning salt, and a whallop of vinigar thined sour mustard, that even a generous dolop of sweet ketchup couldn't tame, rank this below boogies for me. The meat was pretty standard, ableit salty, but the bun had a nice softness. Reminds me a little of the Burger Baron in Regina. However, the Burger Baron does a double burger where one patty is made of ground BACON! And they serve 'Tator Tots! While there isn't a BB in Calgary, I've heard there are some in Edmonton, Hanna, St. Paul.

              Back to the Fatburger...I'd second and third the comments about the decore etc. All of the worst parts of fast food : garish colors, cheap finish, no originality. And all of the worst parts of a slow food: $10 plus for a burger-fries-drink, 10 min plus wait time. No thanks!

              Now, as a displaced Manitoban, I'd be on the lookout for what my friends and I call, Winnipeg Style Burgers. Huge, thin sloppy patties with a chili or chili like sauce, shredded iceburg, onions and mustard. Juniors was always a favorite, but there are countless places on Corydon, North Main, and Portage to get the fix. But what about Calgary, any suggestions?

              2 Replies
              1. re: KcM

                Yes there are Burger Barons scattered around in Edmonton, although I've found the quality of flavour will vary from location to location. My favourite so far has been the 9908 70 Avenue location but I've only tried a few locations so I can't tell you which is the best in the city.

                1. re: anonymoose

                  The one one 82nd Avenue just as it almost turns to Sherwood Park freeway (46th street?) is really good too. The one in the NW by the old Grant MacEwan, 103rd avenue, 156 street isnt as good.

              2. I've never been a fan of Boogies (paper plates are for sporting events, not restos) and couldn't imagine fighting suburbanites for Fatburgers. Bruger Inn has been consistent (good fries), but the atmosphere (paper plates AGAIN) is akin to a high school cafeteria. I agree that Peter's is the classic messy burger we all crave once in a while and "fingers" is right, Harvey's makes a pretty tasty fastfood burger (shudder shudder). For my money though, Buchanan's makes the best burger you'll have for the price. While it's a "gourmet" burger made from chopped sirloin, it's only $12 and the Cajun version is especially good. Buchanan's also has a fantastic wine/scotch/beer list so there's no reason not to get out of fastfood hell, sit in their lounge and knock back the house speciality. I am sure the coffee won't be up to John Manzo's standards...but he'll survive!

                Pulcinella is overrated. John G. must have gotten a good freebie for his review. The decor looks like something from a rejected Stanley Kubrick film set and I was unimpressed with the 2 pizza's I have had. I swear the mushrooms came from a can the first time I ate there. I liked the charring of the crust but found the sauce completely devoid of flavor. In short, it failed to deliver. I am going to try it one more time and will drown my palate with prosecco to add to the experience.

                3 Replies
                1. re: ureviewcalgary

                  You weren't imagining the canned mushrooms. I also experienced that, and was revolted by the slimy, gummy fungi piled on my pizza like little brown corpses.

                  1. re: ureviewcalgary

                    Just an FYI, Buchanans burgers are $15 now. But still the best burger not made in a home kitchen in town. I like mine Cajun Medium Rare.

                    A restauranteur friend and I have discussed a burger project for Calgary - simple takeout counter, grill, and some bench seating. 5 or 6 burgers. Lower price point, good fresh ingredients, great buns, made to order. Would something like this actually take in Calgary? Im a bit busy to do the marketing research right now, but i dont see the margins nor the volume required, while he insists they are there. Thoughts?

                    1. re: yen

                      I think it would do great. I know so many people who would frequent that kind of place, particularly if they featured/offered all-natural or organic condiments, etc. Would that be a possibility? The chien chaud does well for that very reason (preservative and additive free meat). There is a huge market of people with children who will not compromise taste or quality, for themselves or their children, and will travel great lengths and drop endless cash to that end. And if you could find great buns... that's a dealbreaker for a lot of people. There are my two cents!

                  2. I'm getting quite turned off by the attitude of Pulcinella's hosts/hostesses. There was my first experience (reviewed here http://ugonnaeatthat.wordpress.com/20...) and then I dropped by on a Sat night to see how long the wait was, and was totally ignored. Took a few minutes for a hostess to notice I was standing there patiently to ask a question.

                    1. I enjoyed Pulcinella the first time I went - it was pizza right out of Italy - but the second time it wasn't quite as good and the service took a slide right off the charts - too bad, it's a nice room and it has the potential to be great.

                      1. Pulcinella's fell short in every way for me! I had the fennel grapefruit salad, which was to be dressed in (parm i believe) and olive oil... it was hard to swallow, as there was NO OIL :(, and the grapefruit was dried out. After the starter salad, we had an antipasto plate which i was expecting what the menu said: selection of cheeses, meat, etc. well there was 2 little nickel sized pieces of mozza wrapped in the fat of a piece of pruscuttio, and the rest of the platter (while large) was piled with pickled peppers, in various assortments mainly. The pizza i hoped would save the night, up to that point I was very happy with the friendly service, the buzzing white glow of the room and the great back lite photo's on the wall. But alas.... the pizza was boring zzzzzzzz, pretty but awfully bland. I will say though that with all all left over pickled peppers and eggplant, and the 3/4 of a pizza we took home, along with a handful of Grana Pidano I grilled up a masterful pizza paninni for lunch the next day!

                        As for Fatburger.... it has it's appeal my daughter loves going there.. and they have a pretty good gravy! But for a burger in this city it's got to be DAIRY LANE for this gal!

                        1. I was also disappointed with Pulcinella. I have spent a lot of time in Italy over the last 20 years (going to school, working off an on and traveling extensively) and the closest that I have found to authentic Italian pizza is at Il Centro near the Chinook mall. The setting is nothing special, they don't have an oven made from stone shipped from an Italian volcano, the hours are lousy (only open at night a couple of nights a week, otherwise it's afternoons only) but the pizza is the real deal and the prices are very fair, especially given the quality.

                          1. Alley- I'll wager you didn't spend time in Naples- nobody does. It's the Mississippi of Italy. It's the Naples style that Pulcinella emulates, to the letter. It's not for everybody.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: John Manzo

                              I have spent a little bit of time in Naples and loved their style of pizza. When I first tried Pulcinella's it was disgusting but the 6 times I've been since have been fantastic for the pizza. It is just like the pizza you get in Naples. Duh - I know that is the whole point.

                              1. re: ennui

                                That's good to hear! My grandpa was from Naples and I think Pulchinella must be in my blood!

                            2. I actually went back to Fatburger last week. It was a hell of a lot better than the first time I went. It was far less greasy this time, and it was perfectly seasoned with the proper amounts of salt, condiments and vegetables. The onion rings were actually very good this time (again, too greasy the first time around). I actually rather enjoyed it. While the wait is somewhat annoying I do appreciate the fact that the food is made to order.

                              I have been to various Fatburgers in California, where they always tend to be incredibly greasy (the ground beef used is way, way too fatty).

                              All Fatburger restaurants look the same (sans the original one, I think) so what you see here is what you see everywhere else...

                              1. Revisited Pulcinella tonight, and had a much improved experience, enough to reconsider my slightly cranky earlier review. The place was packed (Wednesday at 8:30pm) so I was seated at one of the 4 empty chairs immediately in front of the famous forno with a view into the kitchen. It was fun watching the young and energetic staff at work at the very busy pizza oven and in the kitchen - they bake a lot of pizzas at this place.I started with the calamari, which was almost perfect: cooked in a light, clean batter, dusted with tomato and lemon sauce (dusted: can you say dusted with a sauce? well, that's what it was, dusted) and chili peppers. Then the pizza Capricciosa: ham, black olives (with the pit still in, as helpfully pointed out by the server), artichoke and mushroom, as well as fresh mozzarella, tomato sauce and fresh basil. Tasty, if a bit noisy with so much of the toppings, but much better than what I tried before, and this time I enjoyed the softer, wetter crust. The wine was ok, a bit pricey for the taste: I had two glasses of the barbera, at $14 per glass, and the taste wasn't up to the price or the pizza. Come to think of it, except for Divino, I have not had a lot of luck with ordering wine by the glass here in Calgary: I often find I get something with too little life and taste left in it, perhaps the result of the bottle left open too long.

                                Dinner compared very well to a lunch I had two weeks ago with a friend at Il Centro where we split two pizzas, the special and a seafood pizza both of which were as usual excellent.