With the cool, wet weather, I’ve been pining for somewhere sun-drenched—like Italy. The solution, since I can’t jet off to the Mediterannean at the moment, is Pizzeria da Lupo, a small Boulder restaurant with big flavor—and the spirit of an Italian family pizzeria.

Authentic Italian pizzas in Boulder, Colo.

I bite into the crisp-but-chewy crust of a steaming-hot, just-baked margherita pizza and am transported to Italy. The fresh basil and San Marzano tomatoes have a hint of sunshine. And the gooey, house-made mozzarella is just right.

Every pizza is served with a condiment plate of sea salt, oregano, grated parmesan, and hot peppers. My pizza doesn’t really require dressing up—a classic margherita has all the flavor you need, really—but I do like a pinch of sea salt and three or four of those pepper flakes for just a touch of hot.

The $10 daily lunch special includes a 9-inch pizza, iced tea and a generous green salad drizzled in an olive-oil/vinegar dressing.

Fresh Ingredients, Authentic Pizza Oven

I first visited Pizzeria da Lupo in March for a special media event with chef-owner Jim Cohen. We journalists got to try our hand at the art of pizza making.

First, chef Ashlea Tobeck walked me through the experience of making cheese. I poured hot water over a bowl of mozzarella curds and clumped them together using a spoon. Then I plunged my hands into the melty cheese-water, pulling the hot curds into strings and then compressing them and smoothing them into a ball. It felt like kindergarten art project.

Chef Jim Cohen tends the wood-fired oven at Pizzeria da Lupo.

Next: turning a ball of dough into a pizza. The dough at Pizzeria da Lupo rises for three days so that it’s light and flavorful. My task—and it was surprisingly difficult—was to stretch the dough. Chef Cohen juggled the dough over his knuckles, letting it drape downwards.

When I did it, though, mine formed big holes. After I tried again and had the same results, Cohen stepped in and deftly spun the dough into a pie, which I then coverd with olive oil and added mushrooms and sausage and the yummy hand-made cheese.

My creation was ready to shove into the oval, brick-and-tile oven imported from Italy. A pile of red-hot embers heats the oven to 1,000 degrees at the top—700 degrees in the bottom center where my little pizza spent 60 seconds as the dough bubbled dramatically.

Antipasti and a tricolore salad, Pizzeria da Lupo

Then, using the wood paddle, the chef moved the pizza farther from the burning wood to a less-searing area for about three minutes. When it was done, he held it in the 1,000-degree spot for just a second or two to sear it.

Once out of the oven, the pizza was finished with a drizzle of Italian olive oil, cut with a mezzaluna knife, and served piping hot.

Despite my inability to spin dough, my pizza was done to perfection—with a little help from a chef and an Old World oven.

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You may not get the chance to make your own pizza in this cute, quaint restaurant—I love the old-fashioned tile on the floor and the family photos on the wall—but you can enjoy the fruits of the chefs’ creativity.

So why fly to Italy? Just visit Boulder’s Pizzeria da Lupo.

Laurel Kallenbach, freelance writer and pizza taster

  • Marian Thier

    Laurel, just reading your post made me want to dash right over there, even though I just finished eating dinner. Wonderfully alive writing, and sounds like a winning restaurant. Thanks,

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