Pupatella, the Neapolitan-style pizzeria that’s built a loyal following in Arlington over the past decade, opens its first D.C. location tonight in Dupont Circle.
The newest Pupatella, an addition to a group that has two locations in Arlington and two in the Richmond area, slides into a space formerly occupied by Rosemary’s Thyme Bistro, which adds a fresh option next-door to year-old Korean gastropub Anju.
Dinner kicks off at 5 p.m., with seating across a 30-seat wraparound patio at 1801 18th Street NW. Takeout is also available from a pair of to-go windows situated on the sides of the corner restaurant. A lunch menu will go live Friday, August 21, at 11:30 a.m.
The growing brand comes from entrepreneurs Enzo Algarme and Anastasiya Laufenberg, who opened their first restaurant at 5104 Wilson Boulevard in Arlington in early 2010. He fires the pizza, and she handles the gelato program, serving scoops from a freezer in the front. Algarme says his pies are best straight from the oven, but to-go boxes include instructions for reviving the pizza in a home oven (500 degrees for three minutes).
Starters include Italian street snacks like sausage-stuffed arancini and fried mozzarella balls, along with burrata platters for up to three, crostini, and salads.
Ingredients imported weekly from Algarme’s hometown of Naples land atop an impressive variety of pies: 14 red sauce options, and eight white to start. Washington Post columnist Tim Carman named Pupatella’s Margherita DOC as one of the top 10 pies in the area in January.
The venture is known for using lots of seasonal ingredients. A “Fig n Pig” white sauce pizza, for instance, ushers in summer with fontina cheese, fresh local figs, prosciutto di parma, and a balsamic glaze.
“We liken it to the pumpkin spice latte — people just wait for it,” Algarme says of the fall treat.
Each pizza takes around 90 seconds to bake in a traditional wood-fired oven made of brick from Mount Vesuvius. Planting a 6-ton domed oven in the middle of the building was a huge feat, requiring the installation of a reinforced underground platform to support the nucleus of the pizza operation.
The operation spirals all the way downstairs, where the dough-making process takes place. Its 20-something staff members whiz up and down the stairs in red fedora hats and black masks sporting red Pupatella logos.
A complete overhaul of Rosemary’s Thyme included adding mosaic tiling and breaking down drywall to reveal exposed brick columns. References to Naples are frequent, with a wallpapered map of the Italian city covering a back private room that will stay empty for now. Framed images of the Napoli soccer team, a well-dressed gentleman sipping an espresso, and a trio of older men riding Vespas are splashed across the walls. To pay homage to its original location, there’s a similar bubbly chandelier made of colorful blown-glass orbs upon entry.
The patio will operate until 11 p.m. on weekdays and midnight on weekends. The interior will stay closed to the public for now, but diners walking through to the bathroom can catch some cool graffiti lining the walls and ceiling.
Pupatella started as a food truck and raised $3.75 million in 2018 to fuel expansion plans to open up to eight area locations over the next three years. The first of the promised bunch arrived last year in South Arlington at 1621 S. Walter Reed Drive. Pupatella recently made headlines for publicizing negotiations a proposed rent spike that could have forced it to vacate the flagship (it’s staying put).
A new Reston location is expected to open in a few months. An additional outpost is headed to the Mosaic District in Fairfax.