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Fresh out of high school in Naples, Italy, Enzo Algarme came to the United States nearly 12 years ago with the hopes of playing professional soccer. An injury quickly changed his plans. He instead went to culinary school, where he met Anastasiya Laufenberg, and together they opted for a different future, but one equally rooted in Italian culture: pizza making.
They launched their Pupatella Neapolitan Pizza Cart in the fall of 2007. Last weekend, the couple made the jump that few street vendors do: They opened their own brick-and-mortar restaurant, complete with a wood-burning oven custom-made in Italy. The oven’s refractory brick and lava-rock floor allow Algarme and Laufenberg to cook their pies just as God and the VPN intended: at temperatures well above 800 degrees F.
“I think our product now is the exact product we wanted to put out [at the beginning],” Algarme says during a phone interview this afternoon. “True Neapolitan pizza is different from what we were selling out of the cart.”
The couple always had the ingredients — the Caputo 00 pizza flour, the San Marzano tomatoes, the fresh basil — but now they have the right wood-burning oven. “I’m just happy,” Algarme says. “When I taste it, it just brings me back to Naples.”
The first weekend went well — or as well as could be expected for a group of first-time restaurateurs. Algarme said they served about 200 pizzas on Saturday alone and feel capable of turning out even more in the future. “There’s definitely some kinks that we have to fix,” he says, “but I was fairly happy with the ways thing went.”
Pupatella is aiming for a true Neapolitan experience, and not just with its pies. Its menu also features arancini, calzones, gelato, and even wines sourced from Naples. Does this mean that Pupatella will eventually apply for VPN certification?
“That was always our original plan, mostly for our marketing,” Algarme says, “because I feel the pizzas we are producing are Neapolitan.”
And what about the pizza cart that started it all? Will it go into mothballs?
“We’ll still keep it going,” Algarme says. “We’ll just settle in the restaurant and go from there.”
Pupatella Neapolitan Pizzeria and Friggitoria, 5104 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, (571) 312-7230