When Julia Child anoints you as one of her Great Regional Chefs and James Beard names you one of the five best chefs in the Southwest, it’s safe to say you’re nearing the culinary apex. New York born chef and restaurateur Jim Cohen humbly accepts these accolades, but doesn’t stop there, as he keeps expanding his success with his Louisville restaurant, Empire Restaurant and Lounge, and Pizzeria da Lupo in Boulder.
Open since 2010, Pizzeria da Lupo is a relaxed, neighborhood pizza joint sitting in The Village Shopping Center strip mall on Arapahoe and 28th. It’s casual enough that you can come for take-out, perhaps a working lunch or for an evening with your family (they’re very kid-friendly). If you go for lunch, don’t miss their great $10 lunch special of a margherita or marinara pizza, tricolore salad and an iced tea.
The walls are covered with photos and paintings of Italian memorabilia and families that showcase that feeling of taking you “back to the old country.” From Brando’s Godfather to the “Mona Lisa” to Frank Sinatra, you feel well watched over. My favorite photograph I always point out to friends is the old Italian grandma, hunched over with a silk scarf over her head, sweeping her front sidewalk. If you look closely, she has a revolver tucked into her floor-length skirt. This kind of character oozes through Pizzeria da Lupo, so don’t let the strip mall location fool you.
The floor has red, green and black-checkered tile, while the main wall is exposed red brick. Varying shapes and sizes of hanging lanterns — that look like they belong in an Italian piazza — hang from the ceiling throughout the restaurant.
As soon as you enter, a server will likely call out, “Take a seat wherever you’re comfortable.” You can choose from any of their wooden tables or from their more private booths along the back hall of the restaurant. If you’re interested in sitting at the bar, overlooking the kitchen and its notable $25,000 wood-fired oven, they also have eight bar stools available.
To start, I always rotate between the endive salad and shaved Brussels sprout salad. The endive salad comes with soft, albeit perfectly stinky, Maytag blue cheese and pistachios and the Brussels salad comes with thinly sliced Brussels sprouts, pecorino Romano cheese and toasted walnuts. Both are $9 but they’re hefty on the portion size, so it’s a great share, pre-pizza.
A surprisingly outstanding appetizer that I am never disappointed with is their wood-fired buffalo chicken wings. Almost everything on their menu goes through the oven, which adds flavor you can’t quite get off a stovetop. These wings are slathered in a tangy buffalo sauce, they’re blackened and charred, and the meat on the bones is plentiful.
Pizzeria da Lupo has nine house pizzas, split between white and red. They also allow you to build your own pizza, but I recommend going with their tried and true house combinations or venture to their seasonal menu, called “Da Specials,” on their frequently updated chalkboard.
One of my favorites is the Salsiccia pizza. It comes with house-made fennel sausage, rapini, soft ricotta, house-made mozzarella and chili flakes for a nice kick against the buttery smooth three cheeses. Their thin crust comes out perfectly blistered with dark bubbles around the edge from the oven’s charring and high heat. As you take a bite, the consistency is crispy, with just the right amount of slightly doughy warmth on the inside.
It’s worth noting that while they don’t offer any of their pizzas gluten-free, a unique gluten-free alternative is the Cecina. Made with chickpea flour, water, sea salt and olive oil, these are somewhat similar to polenta or thin, focaccia bread with a soft, richer center. A traditional Tuscan dish originally from Liguria, its simple ingredients ensure this rustic dish doesn’t need much topping (you can get creative and add your own if you prefer) but is comforting and consistent regardless of your gluten preference.
After my latest dinner here, I noticed something I hadn’t seen before on the wall that caught my attention. A quote by Aristotle, hanging above the kitchen, that reads, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
It seems quite obvious that excellence has in fact been obtained in the small but mighty Pizzeria da Lupo.
Pizzeria da Lupo is located at 2525 Arapahoe Ave., Boulder, 303-396-6366