Lupa stands for she-wolf in Italian, and is the newest restaurant addition to the Foreman Wolf Properties, located in blooming Downtown Columbia.
The restaurant recently opened its doors at the Columbia Lakefront , next to Sushi Sono and Clydes. The concept is Tratoria Romana which specializes in modest but plentiful authentic Roman food, in a less formal style. Co-owned by Chef Cindy Wolf and Tony Foreman, Lupa showcases roman-inspired dishes crafted by Executive Chef James Lewandowski.
The style is pretty casual, very similar to a typical Roman Trattoria with the dark wood furniture, low lighting and simple lines.
Something cool about Lupa is that they have a Gelateria and Coffee Shop attached to the Restaurant. This is perfect for people that are just lakeside strolling and looking for a treat. The Gelateria has its own separate entrance as well which makes it easy for visitors that want to go just for the gelato – something I want to do every night!
Gelato flavors range from classic – such as vanilla and chocolate, to more adventurous – such as olive oil. My favorite? Amaretti – although Mango seemed to be the most popular.
We are huge fans of Cindy Wolf and recently visited her flagship restaurant, Charleston in downtown Baltimore. Let me tell you, this girl can cook! She has been nominated for the James Beard Foundation Award six times and is the co-owner to other successful restaurants in Baltimore.
The food, service and attention to detail at her restaurant is outstanding. If you want to check out what she is up to, go to the Foreman Wolf website. I recently discovered her radio show and have been enjoying it quite a lot. Cindy and Tony Forman have discussions about trending topics in the food industry. At the end, they challenge each other to a dish creation challenge. Check it out, it is super interesting.
He is also Executive Chef at Cinghiale restaurant and enoteca in downtown Baltimore. Ok, I gotta say it, Cinghiale is no joke! I have been there and the experience is also outstanding and very memorable. James cooking style focuses on Italian inspired dishes made with freshly produced ingredients.
My birthday was approaching and once we heard of the restaurant opening it was a no brainer – we had to try it. I had no problem finding a table on a Wednesday night. It was a quiet night at Columbia and the restaurant wasn’t crowded.
I absolutely love Italian food. In fact, Italy was the first european city I visited. Having the chance to spend a whole week in Rome allowed me to appreciate roman food. Furthermore, it raised the bar significantly high as far as Italian food is concerned.
The food in Italy is so different and so much better from what we, Americans are used to have. I guess now days with the food revolution that is occurring, good quality, authentic Italian food is more accessible in America – nonetheless, it is still hard to find a place that can make great Italian food that is at the level of what is served in a city such as Rome.
Now, given the reputation that these two talented chefs have, my expectations were high.
The menu is a la carte, divided into 4 categories – Antipasti, Primi, Secondi and Casual
Selezione di Formaggi – a selection of cheeses such as robiola, parmigiano reggiano, pecorino romano and fontina served with delicious nuts and fruit. Cheeses were of excellent quality and married beautifully with our red wine.
We decided to share the Prime course and save some room for more food down the road.
Bucatini all Amatricana – bucatini pasta, guanciale, roasted tomatoes and dried chilies. Bucatini pasta is like a spaghetti but thicker and hollow inside, very common pasta served in Rome. This pasta dish was THE BOMB. I thought I’ve never say this but this pasta blew our minds.
The pasta was cooked perfectly, it was spicy, salty, crunchy, delicious. This dish can easily stand next to any pasta dish in a Roman restaurant. I’ve never tried guanciale before, which I regret enormously because it is SO GOOD. It gave the dish dimension and a surprise effect. The way it was explained to me is that is similar to bacon but is made from the pork cheeks. It was crunchy and salty. Definitely a great surprise.
Pan Seared Bronzino – with roasted fennel, fennel pollen pesto and lemon butter. The fish was cooked nicely, very delicate and flavors were balanced. The pesto went really nice with the fish. Overall it was an enjoyable dish.
Crispy Rabbit Leg – with also fried onions and lemons. I like eating rabbit and the description of this dish caught my attention. The rabbit was nice and crispy in the outside but tender and juicy inside. That said, I wish that the meat had more flavor. It fell on the blend side – slightly disappointing. The onions were good. They were fried and tasted like the typical fried onion rings.
Panna Cotta – with marsala caramel, shortbread crumble and frusta di stagione. We loved it. It was creamy and crunchy at the same time.
Gelato – Amaretti. The gelato was SO GOOD. Highly recommended.
Overall we enjoyed our dinner at Lupa. The Bucatini all Amatricana and the Gelato are enough reasons to come back. My recommendation is, stick to the antipasti and primi (the pastas) and get a big gelato for dessert. That is what I will do next time. I encourage you to check it out specially now that the weather is getting nicer, give it a try and take a lakeside stroll afterwards.
Have you tried Lupa yet? Comment below your first impressions.