After a 15-month delay, Lupo Pizzeria makes an anticipated debut Tuesday, June 29, on the bustling 14th Street NW corridor between Logan Circle and U Street NW. Situated next-door to sister restaurant Lupo Verde, the casual spot from Lahlou Restaurant Group occupies the space at 1908 14th Street NW that used to house a Taylor Gourmet.
Unlike Lupo Verde, the new pizzeria won’t serve any pasta. Instead, chef Juan Olivera’s menu (full version below) consists of small plates, sandwiches, and pizza baked in an imported Italian oven that burns at 700 degrees. Owner med Lahlou says it can bake off most dishes in 90 seconds.
Starters range between $10 to $16. That includes plates of squid ink risotto balls stuffed with calamari ragu, salt cod croquettes with a tomato jam, and a panzanella salad that substitutes watermelon for tomato and adds black olives for a briny aftertaste.
Though pasta is nowhere to be found, there is a $20 carbonara pizza topped with pecorino cream, pork cheek, an egg yolk, and a liberal sprinkling of black pepper. Olivera adds squid ink to the dough of another pizza topped tomato sauce calamari, prawns, and mussels.
“Black dough may be intimidating at first, but it adds a natural sea salt taste to the pizza,” Olivera says.
Additional pizza flavors include an option with mozzarella, ricotta, fig, and smoked ham. There’s a spicy pie with salami and Calabrian chiles. The vegetarian crowd can opt for a classic Margherita.
An entire portion of the menu is dedicated to panuozzo, a sandwich stuffed into bread made from pizza dough that’s another common Italian street snack. Olivera’s version of a gyro, the Agnello, pairs strips of top round steak with lettuce, tomato, and an onion-cucumber yogurt.
Along with beer and wine, Lupo Pizzeria sells $12 cocktails from beverage director Brian Kominsky that are filled with traditional Italian ingredients like limoncello and marsala wine. Amaro Lucano, a bittersweet herbal liqueur, takes the place of Aperol for the Duchessa spritz. Kominsky’s version of a gin and tonic incorporates botanical ingredients that go into gin (juniper berries, lemon zest, rosemary) as garnishes. His take on a whiskey sour comes with a Marsala wine floater.
Lahlou planned to open Lupo Pizzeria in March 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic led to several delays. Before the original opening target, the restaurateur and Olivera spent six months in Southern Italy training in kitchens. From learning secrets about making tomato sauce to baking pizza, Lahlou says the extra time helped them test dishes while finalizing the menu.
Because the majority of ingredients are directly imported from Italy, the menu will change seasonally to reflect what’s available overseas. Despite rotating options, one plate will always have a permanent fixture on the menu.
“No one in D.C. has the carbonara pizza,” Lahlou promises. “It was a hit for everyone, even the Italians.”
Correction: Monday, June 28, 1:30 p.m. This story has been corrected to reflect a correction from Lupo Pizzeria owner Med Lahlou that the restaurant’s oven burns at 700 degrees