A new pizza place aims to give The District a deeper and more unique taste of Italy. Lupo Pizzeria opened its doors on June 29th under owner Med Lahlou and Head Chef Juan Olivera.
“Opening night was like a flash,” Olivera says. “A lot of emotions were involved.”
One look at Lupo Pizzeria’s food menu, and you’ll quickly realize you’re in for something a bit different. It includes fried seaweed doughnuts, squid ink risotto balls stuffed with calamari ragu and the Lupo Marino pizza — a squid ink dough topped with dashi tomato passata, calamari, prawns and mussels.
“We’re trying to put all the southern [Italy] flavor into the pizza,” Olivera says.
Lahlou, who owns four other restaurants in Washington, D.C., says he found the inspiration for Lupo Pizzeria by traveling through Italy.
“I traveled all around Italy, from the south to the north, and east, west.
Lahlou says that his Italian travels showed him Italy has so much more flavor to offer beyond the traditional spaghetti and meat sauce or the simple pepperoni pizza.
Nearly every part of the Lupo Pizzeria — from the interior decorations, to the incorporation of seafood down to the type of water used in the pizza dough — comes from his Italian experiences.
“In Napoli, I had amazing pizzas. That’s where the concept started with that carbonara pizza, squid ink pizza, that was from Napoli,” Lahlou says. “Some of it from Napoli, some of it from the Amalfi Coast and some of it from [Lake] Como.”
“It’s not just a pizza bar.”
Lupo Pizzeria’s management team, which includes Beverage Director Brian Kominsky, aims to give its customers something truly unique.
Kominsky says, “We want to give everybody the best experience possible, and the best way to do that is to walk them through the menu like a blueprint and give them the real Italian experience.”
“We worked very hard on this concept,” Lahlou says. “It’s not just a pizza bar.”
Lupo Pizzeria features a full drink menu that is crafted to compliment the food. There are plenty of beer and wine options to choose from, and for those looking for something unique, Kominsky highlighted the Marsala DC Sour, the G&T 14: his spin on the traditional gin and tonic and the Espresso Martini.
“We sell a ton of them,” Kominsky says. “I have a specific recipe for an espresso martini that for whatever reason, people have fallen in love with.”
Donating food to those on the pandemic frontlines
Lahlou says Lupo Pizzeria was originally set for a mid-March, 2020 opening. At about that exact time, D.C. Mayor Murial Bowser ordered bars and restaurants to halt in-person dining to control the spread of COVID. For Lahlou and his team, this was an opportunity to improve their craft while helping the community.
“I was like ‘okay Chef [Olivera], that’s not a problem. Let’s start cooking ourselves.’ We started cooking in the kitchen every day, we practiced,” Lahlou says.
Months of cooking without customers to serve meant a lot of extra food. So Lahlou decided to donate that food to the hard-working men and women on the frontlines of the pandemic — which included staff at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, Children’s National Hospital, Sibley Memorial Hospital, Inova Fairfax Medical Campus and the DC Fire and EMS Department.
“That’s how we spent our time; improving a lot of dough, a lot of pizzas and helping the hospitals,” Lahlou says.