Freerangekings (FRK): What drove you start Pupatella?
Enzo Algarme (Enzo): I always knew deep inside I wanted to be entrepreneur, and creativity and inventing are at my core. The combination of my love for family, my love for food, always being around food in Naples (specifically great pizza), drove and continues to drive the pizza business. Plus, Pupatella would probably still be just an idea if it weren’t for my wife (Anastasiya), who is also my business partner. She keeps me grounded. She pushes me to stay focused and get things done. As business partners, we complement one another perfectly.
FRK: Since you opened your brick and mortar restaurant in 2010, you have been racking up positive reviews and praise both locally and nationally. How did you learn how to make Naples-style pizza that is obviously standing out from others?
Enzo: If I was going to be the best, I had to learn from the best. Once my mind was set to start a pizza business, I went back to Naples to enter into an apprenticeship at Pizzeria Del Presidente, one of my favorite pizzerias growing up. I studied under one of the world’s masters of Neapolitan pizza – the late, great Ernesto Cacialli. After the apprenticeship, I was obsessed with making the best pizza I could, and I tirelessly worked on my craft. Every night after work, I’d try new pizza recipes and have Anastasiya taste test the finished product, giving me thumbs up or thumbs down. We’d also host pizza parties to get our friends’ opinions. Plus, I grew up eating Neapolitan pizza on the streets of Naples. I knew a good slice when I tasted it.
FRK: Is that when you started the infamous Pupatella food cart at the Ballston Metro Stop?
Enzo: Yes. Once we knew that we were making pizza that we knew people would love, we bought a food cart with multiple credit cards and set up at the Ballston Metro Stop in Arlington. That’s all we could afford at the time. When we were looking into a space to rent for a full-on Neapolitan pizza shop, landlords wouldn’t consider us because of our money situation. My wife actually came up with the food cart idea. She went to school in Wisconsin, where campus food carts did really well. After six months of running the cart with steady customer flow, the Washington Post featured us in an article. Then BOOM! The long lines started. We stayed busy, saved money, worked long hours, and three years later, had enough money to rent a brick and mortar space. The landlord didn’t even ask to see our bank account. He was convinced based on seeing the food cart traffic and reading about the increasing buzz and publicity.
FRK: So what do you think differentiates Pupatella over other businesses serving Naples-style pizza?
Enzo: I think the one thing that makes us different is the amount of care we put into everything. Sure, we follow the 200-year old, traditional way of making Neapolitan pizzas and use the freshest, highest-grade ingredients, but we are also constantly perfecting classic pizzas that will always be on the menu as well as experimenting with new tastes and recipes.
FRK: What’s your favorite pizza?
Enzo: Margherita pizza. The smell and first bite will take you straight to Naples.
FRK: That is my favorite too and in my top 5 meals for the East Region. You cannot go wrong with the pizza that started it all. What is your favorite part of running the business?
Enzo: It is always nice to have a write up in a newspaper or magazine, and I’m still waiting for my cover picture [laughs]. However, the most meaningful accolade to me is the grandma walking out of my shop saying my pizza was the best she has ever tasted, or the kid saying he wants to become a pizza maker when he grows up. I also love seeing regulars come back time after time. I still see customers that supported me back in our food cart days.
FRK: What is next for Pupatella?
Enzo: Just continuing to spread the pizza love, bringing more honest, good quality pizza to the people.
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