Just about everyone loves pizza. Cheesy, carb-forward and comforting, it's the type of food that lends itself to a neighborhood restaurant, like Lupo in Seattle's Fremont neighborhood.
"I would say it's a small, small place. Neighborhood Italian restaurant serving naturally leavened pizza, really good pizza. That's our bread and butter," explained Cam Hanin, executive chef of Lupo.
Like the space itself, Lupo's kitchen is compact. It's dominated by a roaring wood-fired pizza oven where Hanin and his team are cooking up their own unique brand of Neapolitan pizza.
"It's not the true pizza Napoletana you might see around town, meaning we use different ingredients. We use California tomatoes, we use local Washington flour and then our dough is naturally leavened, meaning we don't use any commercial yeast. We use a sourdough starter," said Hanin.
With nearly two decades of experience in professional kitchens in both Seattle and New York City, Hanin perfected his sourdough pizza while running the beloved pop-up Guerrilla Pizza Kitchen.
"Sourdough has got a unique challenge to it that keeps you on your toes. It also keeps you really active with the product," explained Hanin. "It's more touchy. I know a lot of pizza makers I've talked to, they don't like it because there's that extreme variability to it, but to me, that's what makes it more fun."
Despite the temperamental nature of sourdough, Hanin tells me it gives Lupo's pizza more depth of flavor. That flavor profile is accentuated in pies like the classic Margherita, featuring cheese from Samish Bay Creamery and the cacio e pepe, a riff on the classic pasta dish.
"We generally have a three-ingredient rule on the pizza. We try to fit somewhere between three and four ingredients on it," explained Hanin. "I think we're less worried about being super creative and breaking the mold and more just making sure it's really good. If it's only three ingredients, then it's our job to make sure those ingredients are seasoned well, prepared well, and eaten well together."
The rest of the menu changes based on the seasons. The Caesar salad may feature chicories in the winter and little gems come spring, while other starters serve as a showcase for local vegetables. For dessert, Lupo offers a rotating, house-made ice cream.
"We put as much care into our desserts and appetizers as we do the pizza. I think that's something that does set us beyond expectation a little bit," said Hanin.
Of course, when it comes down to it, the pizza is what keeps people coming back. At Lupo, there is a deceptive simplicity to what they do, showcasing serious cooking skills while making food that is universally beloved.
"Everybody has an idea of what pizza is and I want them to be able to eat this stuff and be like, 'Oh wow. There's something about it that's different and special. They don't even need to articulate what that is. As long as they enjoy it to the point where they realize that it is a little bit different, that's all I really want."
Learn more about Lupo's here.