Lupo Pizzeria is serving up neapolitan-style pizzas with flavor combinations and toppings you’re not likely to find anywhere else.
The pizza shop opened its doors at 1908 14th St. NW in late July, just one storefront down from its sister restaurant Lupo Verde on the restaurant-packed 14th Street corridor between Logan Circle and U Street. Unlike Lupo Verde, Lupo Pizzeria doesn’t require reservations and is noticeably less expensive, creating a casual dining experience with equally well-executed Italian cuisine.
You can call in pizza orders to pick up or stop in for a sit-down meal with friends. Either way, Lupo Pizzeria makes for a fun weeknight dinner when you’re not in the mood to cook.
I was lucky enough to sit at one of two high-top tables at the front of the restaurant where the floor-length storefront windows are left ajar. People passing by could catch a glimpse inside and I enjoyed the light breeze and lively sounds of 14th Street.
Lupo Pizzeria is a small rectangular space with a full bar on the right, tables snug to the wall on the left, a line of square tables in the middle and the kitchen in the back. The restaurant is adorned with simple decorations like a sports bar with Italian flags and sports team paraphernalia strung about and pops of color like the blue leather chairs.
The menu is straightforward with a limited list of salads, appetizers, pizzas and sandwiches. Some dishes are unaltered Italian classics like the fritto misto ($18), an appetizer of fried seafood including calamari served with lemon aioli or the margherita rivististata pizza ($19) topped with tomato sauce, basil, mozzarella and bufala cheeses.
Other menu items veer from Italian tradition playing with new flavor combinations like arancini al nero di seppia ($13), a seafood infused version of arancini with squid ink risotto stuffed with calamari ragu served with saffron aioli. Or the carbonara 2.0 pizza ($22) which translates the traditional carbonara pasta dish into pizza form with a pecorino cream sauce and toppings of guanciale, black pepper, scallions and egg yolk.
But what stuck out to me as the most experimental and intriguing menu item was the Lupo marino pizza ($22) with calamari, prawns and mussels. The 12-inch pie is a shocking black color and incorporates seafood in almost every element.
The dough is infused with squid ink, dyeing it an unconventional black color. The tomato sauce base is camouflaged by the black dough but its flavor comes through as soon as you bite into your slice.
The sauce is flavored with dashi, a stock made by steeping dried bonito and anchovies, kelp, and dried mushrooms together. This addition of an intense umami flavor to the sauce elevated the acidity of the tomato flavor and drove the seafood flavor of the pizza as a whole.
Consistent with the restaurant’s unconventional theme, the pizza lacked cheese, which I only realized was absent after finishing my meal. The generous portion of tender calamari, juicy prawns and salty mussels made up for this missing element and satisfied my hunger quickly.
Shredded carrots gave the pizza an appreciated crunchy element and chopped parsley added a vegetal flavor that played nicely with the overwhelming seafood flavor. A charred lemon half sat in the middle as a garnish, but the smoky acidity it added when squeezed all over was key to rounding out the strong flavors of the pizza.
I paired my meal with a light and refreshing Menabrea blonde lager beer ($7). If you’re not in the mood for beer or wine, you can try specialty cocktails like the duchessa spritz ($13) with amaro lucano, prosecco and rosemary or the lupo pazzo ($14) with mezcal, lychee, cocchi americano, herbal liquor, grapefruit bitters and lime zest.
Next time you’re in the mood for pizza that doesn’t come to your apartment door in a cardboard box, stop by Lupo Pizzeria.