For pizza enthusiasts, the montanara (fried Neapolitan pizza) isn't exactly breaking news. New York pizzerias like Giulio Andriani's Forcella and La Montanara have been churning out the fried pies for months now and Slice has been following the trend ever since. Even Eataly has gotten in on the montanara action. Down in the nation's capitol, we haven't been as lucky. Until, that is, a few months ago. Enzo Algarme, a friend of Andriani, and his excellent food truck-cum-pizzeria, Pupatella, started offering the Montanara ($12) on a limited basis earlier this year.
The last time Slice checked in with Arlington-based Pupatella was in November 2010. Since then, Enzo's been turning out the same great, authentic Neapolitan pies, with the exception that they've been VPN certified as of January 2011. The certification, incidentally, was overseen by Andriani, during which the two discussed the prospect of bringing the montanara to their respective cities. As we all know, Andriani went on to launch the fried pies at Forcella a few months later, but Enzo was limited by the size of his operation. After seeing the montanara take off in New York, however, Enzo eventually decided it was time to do it in the District.
For a long time, Enzo has been doing most of the heavy lifting at Pupatella. Although he's had the montanara in the back of his mind since his food truck days, having grown up eating it on the streets of Naples as a child, he didn't want to stretch himself too thin, lest the quality of his other pies suffer. When he was able to bring on some more employees earlier this year, he seized that opportunity to start offering the montanara on a limited basis. For those unfamiliar with what a fried pizza might actually entail, it's not all that different from a standard Neapolitan pie, save for a minute or two in the fryer before being topped and thrown in the oven. The oil gives the dough a light crispness and airiness, while adding a dimension of savoriness not found in the montanara's unfried cousins.
Pupatella is also a traditional friggitoria, offering staples like an assortment of arancini. One of Enzo's favorite items is the pizze fritte (a fried calzone), but it hasn't taken off as he'd hoped. He has high hopes for the montanara and depending on the level of demand, Enzo would love the opportunity to make it a permanent menu item. As he brings on employees he can trust to fry them to perfection, it could become a mainstay at Pupatella. If you're as happy as I am that D.C. is keeping up with New York's pizza scene in even the remotest aspect, it is your solemn duty to make it out to Pupatella and demand the montanara as frequently as possible.
All that said, I'd be remiss if I didn't check in on the quality of Pupatella's standard Neapolitan pies. The Margherita DOC ($12) is still going strong. The crust is at once crisp and chewy with a light char and beautiful leopard spotting. The sauce, mozzarella, and basil are well balanced and fresh. In other words—the same great, authentic pies with which Enzo has made Pupatella a D.C. favorite.
If you're in the D.C. area and haven't had Enzo's montanara, you owe it to yourself (and to the rest of us) to try it (be advised—your best bet is to call ahead or check Pupatella's Facebook page to make sure they're offering the montanara that evening). If you've never been to Pupatella period, there's never been a better time to try one of the best pies, fried or otherwise, in D.C.