On Sept. 23, Neapolitan pizzeria Pupatella announced that it had signed a lease to open its second District location at 301 Massachusetts Ave. NE, formerly the site of Mediterranean restaurant Romeo and Juliet.
The building has sat empty for nearly four years. The building has fallen into disrepair, but the Pupatella team say they are ready to return it to its former glory –and to bring pizza to the northeast part of Capitol Hill.
‘A Simple Product for a Complicated Time’
Pupatella brings the Neapolitan flavor to a part of the neighborhood without an excess of nearby pizza options, serving a highly residential area as well as multiple office buidings on and near the Capitol complex.
Founders Enzo and Anastasiya Algarme started Pupatella as an Arlington food truck in 2007 to fulfill Naples-born Enzo’s desire to bring a slice of home to his neighborhood. (“Pupatella,” meaning “little doll” in the Neapolitan dialect of Enzo’s youth, was what everyone called his grandma).
In 2010, they opened their first brick and mortar pizzeria in Arlington. They’ve remained obsessed with maintaining the authenticity and quality of their pizza. The dough is prepared with only four ingredients: 00 Italian flour, sea salt, fresh yeast, and water.
“It’s a simple product for a complicated time,” said Pupatella’s Chief Operating Officer and partner Michael Berger.
Each pizza is baked in a traditional wood-fired oven made of brick from Mount Vesuvius and cooks in around 90 seconds. Ingredients are imported weekly from Naples, and Pupatella’s pizza is certified authentic Neapolitan by the Naples-based Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (VPN).
Seeking ways to expand, the Algarmes joined forces with founders of Elevation Burger, including Berger, in 2016.
Berger said that the restaurant first looked at the Massachusetts Avenue about three years ago, but hesitated because of the tremendous amount of work necessary to reopen the building.
That changed after the company’s recent $7.5 million capital raise to develop as many as 15 additional company-owned pizzerias over the next few years. COVID also allowed for a lengthy period of lease negotiation, Berger said.
Remodeling of the building is expected to start in the next few months, with a targeted opening in summer of 2022. Pupatella already operates five pizzerias in Dupont Circle, North Arlington, South Arlington, Richmond and Reston with two additional sites slated for Virginia.
‘A Neighborhood Place’
The Capitol Hill Pupatella will boast one of the largest outdoor patios in the neighborhood, with capacity of about 90. Berger said the patio has a European feel that is “very Pupatella.” In its last incarnation, he added, the restaurant could seat 80 indoors across three stories.
The restaurant will be gutted over the next year to address damage incurred over the years it was vacant. Berger said that initial plans are to completely renovate the interior but to maintain the beautiful central staircase. “We’re going to bring it back. It’s just a beautiful building on a beautiful corner,” he said.
The menu at Pupatella features a robust selection of red and white pizzas, friggitoria (Italian fried food), small plates and salads complemented by select wines and a rotating offering of craft beers, plus house made limon- and apple-cello, all at “approachable prices,” Berger said. Guests order at the counter and then are seated to for full tableside service.
As with other locations, the spacious patio and takeout service will allow Pupatella to adjust to pandemic restrictions and will continue to add to the dining experience.
Berger said being a valued part of the neighborhood is part and parcel to who Pupatella is. After 15 years of living on the Hill, he is familiar with the neighborhood. “Capitol Hill is a vibrant and special community,” Berger said, “and we look forward to working together with neighbors, our local government officials and the historic review board to bring beauty and hospitality to this corner.”
“We’re a neighborhood pizzeria,” he said. “We really do want to be the place for people to gather.”
To learn more about Pupatella, visit www.Pupatella.com.