Two ambitious local restaurants are working to bolster their brands both here and abroad with plans designed to make the rest of the world crave the signature tastes of wood-fired pizza and Mediterranean cuisine.
Pizza purists Enzo Algarme and Anastasiya Laufenberg got things rolling with the food cart they used to push around Ballston, then opened their brick-and-mortar restaurant, Pupatella, at 5104 WIlson Boulevard in Arlington, Virginia in early 2010. The duo have continued producing Verace Pizza Napoletana-certified pies ever since.
Along the way they became acquainted with two like-minded individuals: Michael Berger, one of the founding partners involved in fellow fast-casual restaurant, Elevation Burger, and serial entrepreneur Zeeshan Kaba.
Berger said he was introduced to Algarme and Laufenberg by a mutual friend a few years back. He was familiar with their operation — “I had been a customer at their restaurant over the years,” he told Eater — and was fully supportive of their desire to eventually branch out. After hashing out expansion plans including the development of corporate controlled-outlets here in the D.C. area as well as the sales of franchise opportunities elsewhere, they elected to move forward last fall with the first round of recruiting.
Enter Kaba. A native of Richmond, Virginia, Kaba said he fell in love with Pupatella while living in Northern Virginia. “This is hands down the best pizza I’ve ever had in my life,” he said of the food he tried there. “And I thought to myself, ‘If they ever franchise, I’ll be the first person in line.’”
Berger confirmed that Kaba is not only the first franchisee brought into the fold, he was the very first applicant. Kaba said he has signed on to launch four stores in the Richmond market, including one in the pedestrian-friendly section of town known as The Fan, one each in neighboring Innsbrook and Midlothian, and one in a to-be-determined location.
According to Berger, Algarme and Laufenberg are interested in adding to their personal portfolio as well. “We will be pursuing corporate development in this area,” he told Eater. Laufenberg did not provide specifics about where or when a new Pupatella might appear in the immediate area, but did leave the door open to possibly resurrecting a former treat.
“No donuts, yet,” she said in response to a question about whether the sugary send-offs they used to spin out from time-to-time might make it into an evolving operations manual.
We're marking donut's - today I'm thinking nutella, vanilla and lemon curd filled #lovedessert— Pupatella Pizza (@PupatellaPizza) March 19, 2014
According to a release soliciting interested franchisees, the goal is to export Pupatella to areas including Virginia Beach, Virginia, Philadelphia, Wilmington, Delaware, Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, as well as the Middle East.
Cava has a serious jump on Pupatella, boasting over two dozen outlets spread out across the country. Cava Group intends to add 15 additional units within the next year — a goal which should be facilitated by the $30 million the company collected from a fresh round of investing.
Per a release, that capital is expected to assist in expansion efforts into Boston (2018), as well as the development of another half dozen locations in New York City (2017).