Vintage posters and Italian jerseys paying homage to the game of soccer hang over the fumes of freshly-baked pizza at In Bocca al Lupo, the new Glover Park pizzeria bustling with families eager for an authentic Italian experience.
In Bocca al Lupo delves into classic Italian cuisine, separating itself from the typical American pizzeria – while you won’t find traditional pepperoni and cheese offerings on their own, the restaurant delivers authenticity with family recipes and wood-fired ovens. Drawing inspiration from his origins, Fulvio De Rosa – a Roman award-winning pizza chef – serves his country’s traditional delicacies, including variations of pizze bianche, white sauce pizza and fritto, fried rice balls stuffed with cheese and sausage.
Located on Wisconsin Avenue, the Roman pizzeria is a 45-minute uphill walk from campus to Glover Park, replacing the previous neighborhood pizza spot, Arcuri, earlier this year. Aside from the restaurant’s more distant location and later hours – it opens at 5 p.m. on weekdays instead of noon like several other local pizzerias – the family-style dining experience and the Roman inspired menu is worth battling D.C.’s summer heat.
In Bocca al Lupo – Italian for “into the wolf’s mouth,” or a way to wish good luck – first opened its indoor seating in July seven months after its grand opening, operating solely through takeout until the interior design was completely finished.
The restaurant’s commitment to the soccer theme makes the owner’s ties to Rome as clear as can be. A large poster montage of Italian soccer players, jerseys honoring their names and the soccer matches televised behind the bar make it the perfect spot for fanatics of the game
The authenticity of the restaurant’s history and background is not lost on its food. The menu offers 15 different pizzas, some with white and some with red sauce. Each pizza ranges from $11 to $18 depending on the amount of toppings baked on top. While the appetizers on the menu are typical Italian plates – like bruschetta, caprese and aglio olio – the Roman pizzeria also offers fritto, a uniquely Roman delicacy consisting of a fried rice ball with cheese and sausage inside. The salad and rice balls are priced under $7.
The pizza is cooked pomodoro, a vital technique that Italian chefs use to time the rotation of their pizza to create the signature Roman crust that is light and airy, almost cracker-like. In line with Roman fashion, the restaurant’s servers and take-out boxes advise that the pizza must be eaten within 10 minutes of serving and remains uncut to preserve the oils and prevent the thin crust from wilting.
I chose the “In Bocca al Lupo” pizza – sharing the restaurant’s name for its blend of sun-dried tomatoes, salsa verde romano and mozzarella – in hopes it would induce me into the true Italian experience, drifting from my usual margarita go-to.
As promised, the pizza was served uncut, making it difficult to navigate. But one bite in, I understood why the Romans had continued this tradition. While the crust was Napolitano style, paper-like thin, the dough was the perfect balance of flaky and chewy, with an oily consistency between the cheese and the toppings.
The wide variation of toppings made me reluctant at first, but the tanginess of the sun-dried tomatoes with the mildness of mozzarella combined for a perfect pairing. The blend is further complemented by the salsa verde, made out of tomatillo, cilantro and lime juice. The salsa verde was an unusual addition to a pizza but provided a liquid garnish across the red sauce. Its lime flavor brings out the freshness of the ingredients.
Make sure to eat the pizza fresh out of the oven the thin crust leaves the bottom of the pizza soggy after about 20 minutes. While the crust may seem flimsy to those who are fans of more traditional, east coast pizza, the overload of mozzarella and sundried tomato makes the overall greasy experience worthwhile.
In Bocca al Lupo has brought about my new found love for Roman-style pizza, and with the new neighborhood pizzeria fully open, the fresh ingredients and soccer fandom make this new spot the vital stop for a quick summer bite.