Chef Mark Estee is hungry like the wolf.
His latest project, Pizzeria Lupo, just opened on California Avenue at Plumas Street, in a space where pies have long been sliced: most recently at Monaciello and, for 15 years before that, at Blue Moon Pizza.
Pizzeria Lupo joins Cucina Lupo, its wolfish sister in Carson City, as part of Estee’s Reno Local Food Group. The new restaurant shares a building with The Loving Cup bar and a yoga studio, for a hip mingling of craft cocktails, limberness and ‘roni ‘za.
Pizzeria Lupo unites two styles of pizza: thin-crust New-York inspired pies (dubbed neo-Neapolitan) and Detroit-style pies baked in traditional rectangular blue steel pans, similar to the blue-grade steel trays once used in the auto industry
The kitchen slowly ferments its organic dough, sending the pies into an electric deck pizza oven where they bake at more than 600 F. The pizzas emerge from the oven blistered and bubbling, the Detroit version sporting the proper crisp edges.
“I had 20 different pans I tested and cheese blends I tested, and I watched YouTube videos through the pandemic at home,” said Tommy Linnet, the Pizzeria Lupo chef, explaining his training in Detroit-style pies. “It’s one thing to produce one at home. It’s another thing to produce 70 in a day here. It’s all about practice.”
The right brick
On the Neapolitan side, Pizzeria Lupo offers nearly a dozen specialty pies (yup, the signature bee sting is here), in whole pizzas or by the slice.
The Motor City is represented by four whole pizzas, including a classic Detroit pie made using Wisconsin brick, a mild cheese whose high fat content makes for maximum melty oozy gooey goodness.
Neapolitan and Detroit pizzas also are sold as cheese slices that can be loaded from among a dozen topping choices, including broccolini, burrata and housemade Calabrese sausage. There are also (if you must) gluten-free crust and vegan “cheese” options.
For pick-up pies, order from the Pizzeria Lupo website.
Bees and Detroit on the plate
It’s just after the 11:30 a.m. opening the other morning and a line already has formed at the counter at Pizzeria Lupo. The double doors connecting the pizzeria with the adjacent Loving Cup lie open, as they might for pizza-cocktail crosstalk later in the evening.
In the dining room, there are textured wood tables set with steel-framed chairs. Linnet and crew craft pies behind a big picture window that partitions the open kitchen from the dining room. A young girl stands on a chair to observe the action through the window.
Some customers opt for a whole bee sting, others for bee sting slices. Folks consider if they want wings to ride sidecar. They settle on a small order of jumbo smoked wings; boneless wings were an option, too. A host of sauces awaits tossing: green chile, gochujang, Memphis dry rub and more.
A square Detroit slice touches down. It’s heaped with meatballs, then finished with tomato garlic confit that deepens the flavor. The dough is light yet substantial, the edges nicely crisp and roasty, like the carnitas of pizza. A three pigs wedge — salami, sausage, pepperoni — submits to folding, the puffy-chewy rim providing a good grip.
Soft-serve ice cream from local Tahoe Creamery comes in cups or cones or chocolate-dipped, but their come-hither sweetness will have to wait for another day.
Taut looking types pass by Pizzeria Lupo’s windows, heading for yoga upstairs. After they sweat, will they stop by for a slice?