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.
I think I’ll be near there sometime in September – definitely want to check this place out!
I don’t think you’ll be disappointed and say hi to Enzo for me 🙂
I was so happy to see a food post from my mother’s area (Vienna, VA) come across my RSS. We’ll be there in December, so will definitely add Pupatella to our list of places to visit. There’s a lot of bad pizza around that area and my husband is a pizza snob (growing up in Scranton, PA will do that to you apparently). Looking forward to trying this out!
I love Arlington, the more I think about it the more I realize what a special ethnic blend it has even compared to Washington DC or New York City.
Didn’t know Dan was a pizza snob 😛 but Pupatella is the perfect place in the area to visit for that, they really take their craft seriously 🙂
Hmm, smells good 🙂
One day there will be a smell feature for laptops and websites!
I just ate lunch and I’m hungry again! OMG I describe how good that pizza looks, I think I can smell it 🙂
The tomatoes, really I can’t get the taste out of my mind…!
i like the sign on the glass in front of enzo; “good food takes time to make.” it’s funny, because pizza really does span a wide range from crappy fast food, to really elegate dining experience. i love pizza (even crappy pizza sometimes). it’s lucky for you to have met him in university. now you have an “in” with a pizza master. awesome.
haha, wish Enzo delivered around the world – or just to where my backpack is! I love that sign too though; you can’t rush good food and at Pupatella it’s worth the wait 🙂
Enough with those pizzas! 🙂 We’ve been watching a food series by our favourite TV chef recently about Spain and were saying you don’t see that same foodie passion much in Turkey’s eateries (definitely not in the tourist areas, anyway!) and it’s a shame. Enzo looks like an expert in his craft! Love to see people caring about the food they serve.
Definitely agree, it’s a lot of repeat what everyone else is doing in Turkey overall — especially in the touristy areas. Finding those special places takes some doing, but a satisfying quest 🙂
Oh man! I’m officially so hungry now that I have to put down the laptop and go eat. You had me with the photo but when I read all his cheese is made from buffalo milk – well, I LOVE tea with buffalo milk and buffalo ghee and buffalo milk cheese – all specialties in Nepal.
Cheese, like bread is a fairly common food around the world we take for granted far too often. When it’s good, it’s reaaallly good though!
Oh gosh, being a pizza lover myself, I really hope I can be there some days. I’m craving for pizza now, but unfortunately the best pizza in town here is still pizzahut, but I think pizzahut has no match to the above at all, what do you think?
Not at all, like comparing apples and rocks.