Pizzeria Da Lupo - Boulder, CO
Just went to Pizzeria Da Lupo, completing a trifecta of visits to new Boulder neopolitan pizzerias (the others being Pizzeria Basta and Pizzeria Locale). The verdict: the environment is less "refined" and fancy than the other two, but I think the pizza is probably my favorite of the three, and definitely my wife's favorite.
We went on a Friday evening around 5:30 and discovered that it was happy hour. Happy hour meant $2 PBR in a can, $3 "tricolor" salad (basically mixed greens in a vinaigrette) and, most importantly, $6 margherita pizzas. Odd that they don't mention this happy hour on their website - it's a great deal.
The salad was forgettable and the PBR was, well, PBR. (I opted for an Upslope pale ale instead - at $3, worth the extra dollar for both the flavor and the fact that it's a great local brewery that deserves support.) We also tried the burrata starter, which is a pile of rich, creamy burrata cheese (basically fresh mozz mixed with cream) with bits of pistachio and lemon confit on the side, and bread (pizza dough, I think) to eat it with. Heaven. The richness of the burrata is cut by lemon's bite, and the nuts add textural contrast. I could've eaten the entire plate of it, and there was a lot. (OK, I did eat the entire plate. Apologies to my wife. It was delicious, honey.)
For pizzas, we ordered a happy-hour margherita and one with sausage, rapini and ricotta cheese. The sausage pie came out almost immediately, with the server apologizing that the margherita didn't "meet the chef's standards" so they were going to make us another. (A sign either of the integrity of the chef, or that they forgot to put our order in.) The sausage was in fairly dense rounds, still in the casing - unusual for this style of pizza - but was fatty, flavorful and delicious. The rapini and ricotta were also tasty. But the highlight was the crust, as it should be in a neopolitan pie: nice "leopard spots," deep brown spots on the bottom and on the cornicione (indicating the oven was nice and hot), slightly puffy around the edges, with a crisp bottom and chewy middle. The structure was enough to support the slices, but not hard at all. The margherita's San Marzano tomato sauce was a little watery, causing those slices to lose some structural integrity in the middle, but not catastrophically so. And the cheese was perfectly delicious fresh mozz. (They also offer a buffalo mozzarella margherita, but it's not on the happy hour menu.) All the toppings were well seasoned, something I've had issues with at other places in town - I love the basics of Basta's housemade sausage, but both times I've had it it desperately needed salt.
I'm not an expert on traditional neopolitan pizza; I've never been to Italy. But based on what I've had here in the US, although Da Lupo probably isn't the most traditional, it's the closest to my preferences: airy cornicione, good balance of crisp/chewy crust, and flavorful, well-seasoned toppings. Based on this one visit, I'd put the pizza itself at the top of the heap in Boulder so far, but I think that both Basta and Locale have some pretty extraordinary non-pizza items (the wood-fired salad at Basta and the fruitti di mare salad at Locale come to mind) that probably trump Da Lupo's offerings in the "fine dining" category.
One caveat: something I've noticed about neopolitan pizza places is that the dough is so finicky that it tends to change from visit to visit, sometimes dramatically, so until these places have been around for a while it's tough to say whether they'll manage to keep it consistent. Boulder Organic Pizza is the most notable example of this I've seen; my first visit, the crust was excellent. The next visit, a couple of weeks later, was like a different place - soggy in the center and bready all around, it was almost inedible. I haven't been back yet to see if they've gotten things together.
Just ate here for the first time. I won't try to compare it to Basta or Locale, though those are certainly its competitors. I will just say that it was quite good. We first shared a potato and caper salad that was good, not a "potato salad" but a salad with potatoes in it. A somewhat pedestrian salad that was greatly elevated by the potatoes. We then shared a margarita pizza and a saliche pizza (I think this is the same sausage pie described by monopod, but not sure). The margarita was very good, not great, and the saliche was outstanding. It was a perfect example of what I want in a pizza, made not only with excellent quality ingredients, but also full of bold flavors. It was truly awesome, I could have eaten it all day. We will definitely be going back. Next time maybe for happy hour!
Both Da Lupo and Locale serve deliciousness-in-a-pie. At Locale, we got the Marinara, Margarita, and Corn/Creme Fraiche combo. I'd order them all again. At Da Lupo, we got the sausage and the margarita with buffalo mozz, which were good noshing. Overall, I'd chow at Locale again bf Da Lupo. If you are gluten-free or just adventurous, I'd order the Cecinas at Da Lupo - it is a garbanzo bean crust with veggie toppings. The eggplant/cheese version we had was quite undercooked, but the crust was amazingly yummy. At Locale, you must get the butterscotch pudding. It doesn't matter if you are there for lunch or dinner. Just get it. I appreciate that the spoon that the pudding comes with looks like a shovel, cuz that is exactly what we did.
Just revisited both Da Lupo and Locale this weekend, and I think my loyalties have shifted. Da Lupo was great, basically the same as last time (though they were out of the burrata... bummer). But Locale seemed so much better this time; maybe because we went at lunch and it wasn't crowded or loud, I don't know. The marinara pie was a revelation, with the minimal toppings (tomatoes, garlic, a little oregano) showcasing the perfection of the crust. The margherita was everything it should be - the prototypical margherita, what all other versions aspire to. (The mais was a little too heavy for my tastes - I liked the combination of flavors, but after the simple perfection of the other two it seemed like overkill).
There's something about the Frasca restaurants that, for me, takes at least two visits to appreciate. I felt the same way about Frasca - the first time I went, not knocked out and a little disappointed given the hype. But on subsequent visits, the subtle perfection of the food became apparent and I became a believer. I seem to be headed on the same path with Locale.