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Pupatella, Arlington VA: From Humble Food Cart to Storefront Sensation

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[Photographs: Dave Konstantin]

Pupatella Neapolitan Pizzeria & Friggitoria

5104 Wilson Boulevard (at N. George Mason Drive), Arlington VA 22205; map; 571-312-7230; pupatella.com
Pizza Style: Neapolitan
Oven Type: Wood-fired
Price: 12-inch pizzas, $9 to $12
Notes: Closed Sunday and Monday

Pupatella, Enzo Algarme and Anastasiya Laufenberg's wildly popular new restaurant in Arlington, Virginia, sets a new standard for affordable eating in the DC area. Just six miles west of the White House, this Neapolitan-style pizzeria turns out ethereal pies at earthbound prices.

In his trademark fedora and dark glasses, Algarme works the Italian-made Forno Napoletano oven like a master. Trained at Pizzeria dal Presidente in his native Naples, he presides over a smallish place (with maybe 30 seats), but cranks out an impressive 300 pies on a busy day. The restaurant's name comes from the Neapolitan word for doll; it was Algarme's grandmother's nickname.

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Started as a food cart in the nearby Ballston business district, Pupatella sits in a nondescript strip mall but rises defiantly above its surroundings. The Euro-cool but friendly atmosphere attracts a wide range of clientele and seems to please them all.

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As for the pizza itself, Pupatella's Margherita satisfies mightily in it's simplicity—a brilliant balance of tomato, mozzarella, olive oil, basil, and salt. This is a pie with a 120-plus year history, and Algarme solemnly respects the tradition.

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The Prosciutto Arugula, now a staple in finer American pizzerias but rarely seen in this country until a few years ago, is a delightful contrast of hot and cool, cured and fresh, sharp and creamy.

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Pupatella's Sausage pie combines delicious house-made grilled Italian links with sweet sauteed onions and smoky provola cheese for a pizza that's filling without being heavy.

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The theme that connects every pie here is a superb crust that's at once light and substantial, with a chew and texture that are truly memorable. The crust is airy, chewy, and perfectly charred.

Pupatella is not just a pizzeria; it's also a friggitoria or "fry shop". They offer a crunchy and delicate fried calzone as well as the baseball-sized fried-and-filled rice balls known as arancini. Also on the menu are panini made with house-baked bread, generous salads, and a wide-ranging selection of gelato.

Pupatella serves its delicious pies in a welcoming and efficient bus-your-own-table atmosphere, and sweetens the deal with special offers, like $10 off any bottle of wine when you buy two pizzas. It has become a magnet for the business-lunch crowd as well as neighborhood families. The popularity of Pupatella proves that even in a modest venue, serving an exquisite product at a reasonable price will bring success and even adoration.

Printed from http://slice.seriouseats.com/archives/2010/11/pupatella-in-arlington-va-wood-fired-pizza-review-best-pizza-in-dc.html

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