As a fan of all things related to pizza, my interest was naturally piqued when I’d heard that Sarah Balliet and Adam Turla from indie rock band Murder By Death had opened a pizza place in Louisville. My introduction to Lupo happened early in the afternoon on a freezing cold Tuesday. Located at 1540 Frankfort Ave in between the Clifton and Butchertown neighborhoods, Lupo looks small from the outside. But upon further inspection the place is quite big inside surrounded by chimney red brick walls with subway-sized poster-ads from classic spaghetti western hanging from them.
When I opened the door, an overwhelming aroma of baking bread and the warm scent of sizzling Italian meat hit me right in the face. I then noticed that 70’s era David Bowie was streaming through the stereo speakers — immediately I was put into a heavenly state of mind. Even if the food wasn’t my thing, I knew I’d at least have a good time utilizing 2 of my 5 senses. We were seated in a booth in front of a big window near a massive unlit fireplace making for a cozy dining experience.
I kicked off my Lupo experience by ordering something that I normally would have no interest in: The porchetta, a fancy schmancy rendition of pork belly. To help ease the stress of ordering an unfamiliar plate, I ordered a 3 Floyds Floydivision IV IPA which was 7.4% alcohol. Ahhh yeah, sweet sweet alcohol — the cause of and solution to all of life’s problems.
I’m genuinely afraid of anything like this because I preconceive it to be extremely chewy or rubbery – it makes me sick thinking about it. However, let me make this absolutely, positively clear: this porchetta was fucking out of this world! The exterior had a light, crispy edge while the inside was delicately fluffy and tender. The dish was served over grits (or was it polenta?) and topped with pomegranate seeds, making for one hell of an appetizer. I surprised myself at how disappointed I was when the plate was empty.
Take a look:
After some careful perusing, I chose the Sting Like A Bee pizza, not just because I appreciate the Muhammad Ali homage, but because the menu description had me more than intrigued: tomato, fresh mozzarella, basil, sopressata… and spicy local honey? Whoa.
It should be noted that the pizza that Lupo makes ain’t your grandpappy’s pizza. Or maybe it is, if your grandpappy is from Italy, as Lupo is a legit Neapolitan pizzaria. I say that like I know what legit Neapolitan pizzas are supposed to look and taste like, but I don’t, but it doesn’t really matter to me. In my soft, Nerfy Americanized world, this works for me as an escape to another place, far far away.
Like a few other pizza joints around, they fire up their pies in a wood oven, cooking them very quickly in extremely high temperatures (our pizza came out in no time). The crust is light and fluffy with a slightly charred edge, but thankfully not buttery or greasy at all. Each pie is delicately topped with a very sparse amount of parmigano reggiano which is easily sensed in each bite. When it comes to pizza, nothing irks me more than an overabundance of chewy cheese — My jaw shouldn’t hurt after finishing a slice as if I’d been munching on an entire bag of Big League Chew for the last 3 hours.
As each delicate ingredient disentegrated in my mouth, I could feel the sweetness of the honey combat with its own delicate, spicy heat — I have no idea what sort of honey this is, or where it comes from, but holy shit I want it in my pantry now! As Ken Griffey Junior said in the Simpson’s softball episode, I thought “There’s a party in my mouth, and everyone’s invited!”
It’s worth mentioning how it was a bit weird when I realized how secondary the delicious sopressata was, which was thinly sliced and perfectly cooked with a tender center and crispy edge. Normally that would be the highlight, but not here. The spicy honey and amazing crust are what I will remember most.
I finished my meal with another beer, then left feeling pleasantly full and slightly buzzed. In closing, it’s easy for me to recommend this place to anyone that loves delicious food served in a welcoming atmosphere (our server was great!). It’s also worth mentioning that they’ve got an impressive list of cocktails available, some of which I intend to order upon my next visit. That being said, I’m eager to get my ass back to Lupo to explore a bit more of their menu as everything they offer sounds pretty damned incredible. If you haven’t already, I’d highly recommend you do the same.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Phillip Olympia is absolutely, positively not a food critic. Having said that, he really, really loves food, and he really appreciates Louisville’s effervescent independent restaurant scene, which is why we have decided to embark on a series of posts documenting a singular item from a particular menu from one of many local spots. We’re calling this series “Food For Fun” because, well, I don’t know. It’s a dumb name, but you’ll get over it.