Food truck-turned-pizza shop Pupatella is about to have a huge presence in the D.C. area. The brand has received $3.75 million in fundraising to fuel its expansion plans, founding partner Michael Berger says.
The first of eight planned locations over the next three years is expected to open in early 2019 at soon-to-be announced sites around Northern Virginia. Washington Business Journal first reported on the expansion this week.
The brand comes from pie entrepreneurs Enzo Algarme and Anastasiya Laufenberg, who opened their first brick-and-mortar restaurant at 5104 Wilson Boulevard in Arlington, Virginia, in early 2010. Its original food truck, a reminder of their origins, is parked out back.
Their location wish list is focused on areas just inside and outside the beltway, including Reston, Falls Church, Fairfax, Capitol Hill, and Dupont Circle. The Virginia expansion will kick off first, followed by D.C. and Maryland, according to Berger, the brand’s head of real estate and supply chain.
The new locations hope to expand the bar program, integrating craft beers from more local breweries. Scaling the pizzeria’s in-house gelato program across the brand is another goal. Laufenberg currently hand makes gelato at the Arlington location, but a factory could be in the works to handle increased production.
A franchised location slinging Pupatella’s Verace Pizza Napoletana-certified pizzas opened under serial entrepreneur Zeeshan Kaba in Richmond, Virginia, in July 2017, but the new infusion of investment dollars will be used to build out corporate locations. In recent years, the Pupatella team has expanded to include hospitality vets Berger — a founding partner of fast-casual Elevation Burger — and Kaba. According to the Richmond Time-Dispatch, Kaba is planning on opening additional locations.
Pupatella is currently on the prowl for sites sized around 2,000 to 2,800 square feet, with potential reuses of existing restaurant sites being the most appealing. Neighborhoods with prime weekend traffic for dates or family nights are also the most ideal. It’s not considering any recently shuttered Taylor Gourmet locations, says Berger, because those up-for-grabs sites are typically centered around lunchtime populations.
Prolific restaurant architect HapstakDemetriou (&pizza, Rose’s Luxury, District Winery) is leading the design all new locations, most of which will sport outdoor patios and serve lunch and dinner.
Berger says Pupatella’s position as an “artisan neighborhood pizzeria” helps it stand out of the crowded D.C. pie market. “We are more of a location you can hang out with a glass of wine or beer — we aren’t out chasing the competitors in the fast-casual marketplace with assembly lines,” he says.
They’re starting to team up with more local farmers markets and restaurants to find toppings. A popular pumpkin spice pizza from last fall is scheduled to make a comeback next month.
Each pizza is baked in a traditional wood-fired oven made of brick from Mount Vesuvius and cooks in around 90 seconds. Ingredients are imported weekly from Naples, Algarme’s hometown.