It’s really hard to get your food noticed in an metropolitan area with the kind cultural diversity of Washington DC has. One with such a wide ethnic sprawl over a large physical area, cultures here are quickly homogenized, along with their cuisines. Pizza is the sort of dish you wouldn’t expect to stand out here – a generic term that evokes images of fast food low on the culinary pecking order. But what’s cooking at Pupatella in Arlington, Virginia isn’t simply pizza. It’s Neapolitan pizza prepared by the experienced hands of Italian Enzo Algarme.
Verace Pizza Napoletana Certified
You can’t just make Neapolitan pizza and declarations of such must be certified by the Verace Pizza Napoletana (VPN); a governing body that lays down very specific requirements for how Neapolitan pizza is to be made. The dough, individual ingredients (e.g type of flour), cooking time, and circumference are all precisely laid out by the VPN. Along with a wood burning oven – check – Pupatella’s had one custom made in Naples and shipped to its modest establishment in Arlington, Virgina.
Arlington, the county directly south of Washington DC, is the American equivalent of a welcome mat into the United States‘ capital city. Many immigrants begin their journey in Arlington when arriving to stay, a population of 200,000 that sees so much fresh blood it evolves like an accelerated cultural Petri dish.
Sprouting The Seeds Of A Pizza Dream
Pupatella began as a food cart a few years back in a nearby part of town, the bright-red embodiment of my friend Enzo’s dream, one that’s taken off into the hip little pizza joint in the Ballston area of Arlington today. Enzo, often wearing a bright fedora and sunglasses, makes each pizza himself. In the oven, 4 at a time, with an attention to detail and care hard to describe in words. Almost as if each pizza is brought to life specifically for your mouth, the San Marzano tomatoes (the only approved variety) will make parts of your scalp tingle with the first bite.
Much like Enzo, most of the ingredients of Pupatella’s pizza come from Naples. The mozzarella, made with water buffalo milk – not cow – is imported from Naples, though the character of the food is clearly evident, even under the rigid requirements of the VPN. I recommend going for the “Real Margherita” pizza, a classic, along with 2 arancini – fried rice balls stuffed with cheese, peas, and sausage (there is also a vegetarian version). All of this will run you about $16 and 10-30 minutes depending on how long the moment’s lines are. Enzo doesn’t rush any part of the pizza creation process and glowingly says that quality takes time.
I’ve known Enzo for over 10 years now since the time we shared a dorm at university. He’s always had a Mediterranean passion for his work and it’s really fortunate for anyone who makes it to Pupatella that you can eat the product of his hard labor these days. Pupatella is located at 5104 Wilson Boulevard in Arlington, Virginia and generally open Tuesday through Saturdays from 11:30am to 10pm. Lines can be long in the evening hours and you can best avoid them by popping in mid-afternoon for a pizza, wine, and gelato meal Naples style.
You catch up with Pupatella on Facebook.