2011-07-28 / Cuisine

Bocca Lupo fires up coal oven for primo pizza

Like a lot of folks, I’m always on thee lookout for good pizza. Yes, I enjoyy finer dining, but there are times whenn only a slice of cheesy pie will do.

Unlike a lot of folks, I go both wayss when it comes to crust: I appreciate thinn and crisp as much as doughy deep dish.. Either way, it’s the quality that countss when it comes to dough and toppings.

Both get equal attention at Boccaa Lupo, a pizzeria I checked out recentlyy after spotting it on the top-10 list of Portt Charlotte restaurants on Urbanspoon.com, a site that aggregates reviews from the general public. Of the 46 posters who rated the restaurant, 89 percent voted “I like it.”

Online polls aren’t necessarily trustworthy, but it aroused my curiosity.

Bocca Lupo, opened in November, gave the owners of the adjacent Donato’s Italian Restaurant a way to expand food offerings, said business partner, Dennis Valentino.


Bocca Lupo’s pizza dough is fermented for 48 hours prior to being tossed. 
DREW STERWALD / FLORIDA WEEKLY Bocca Lupo’s pizza dough is fermented for 48 hours prior to being tossed. DREW STERWALD / FLORIDA WEEKLY “Pizza is one of the things we don’t do at Donato’s,” he said. “Good pizza needs to stand alone.”

So they ordered a huge coal-burning oven with a 6-inch thick stone hearth and started turning out old-school New York pizza in the space they remodeled next to the 15-year-old Donato’s. The coal creates an intense heat that cooks thin-crust pies in 5 to 7 minutes.

“A traditional oven takes 12 to 15 minutes,” Mr. Valentino said. “The high temperature seals the crust and cooks the dough faster.”

Coal ovens, which early 20th century New York pizzerias used because wood was too expensive, have been popping up around Southwest Florida in the last couple of years. First there was Tony Sacco’s in Lee County. Then Brooklynbased Grimaldi’s opened later in the area. Like Grimaldi’s, Bocca Lupo has installed a filtration system to soften local water and remove minerals so that it mimics New York City tap water.


On July 9, an elderly driver backed into the storefront of Pies & Plates, causing thousands of dollars in damage. No one was injured, and the store was closed at the time. 
COURTESY PHOTO On July 9, an elderly driver backed into the storefront of Pies & Plates, causing thousands of dollars in damage. No one was injured, and the store was closed at the time. COURTESY PHOTO The latest trendy thing in pizza making is aging the dough, which allows it to rise more slowly and develop a richerr flavor. Bocca Lupo gives its dough 488 hours of fermentation before tossing.

Toppings are first-rate. The pizzeriaa uses only fresh vegetables, makes itss own sausage and buys its cheeses fromm Grande Cheese, a southeastern Wisconsin company started by a Sicilian immigrant during the Depression.

Savory pizza isn’t all that Bocca Lupoo offers. There’s a S’more Pizza, toppedd with chocolate spread, marshmallowss and graham crackers — and a cannolii pizza, with sweetened ricotta, chocolatee chips, pistachios and crumbled cannolii shells.


Deep dish or thin, Bocca Lupo’s crusts receive equal attention from the kitchen. 
DREW STERWALD / FLORIDA WEEKLY Deep dish or thin, Bocca Lupo’s crusts receive equal attention from the kitchen. DREW STERWALD / FLORIDA WEEKLY Mr. Valentino also suggested alertingg New Yorkers that Bocca Lupo servess garlic fries – french fries tossed withh garlic and fresh herbs. They’re hugelyy popular at Yankee Stadium, he says.

Bocca Lupo, which means “mouth off the wolf” in Italian, is in the Murdockk Carousel Plaza at 1900 N. Tamiami Trail.. Call 206-9653 or look it up on Facebookk for more information.

Pies & Plates reborn after ‘Hurricane Otto’

Pies & Plates in Punta Gorda never had a drive-through window until July 9, when an elderly motorist backed through the café’s storefront.

No one was injured when the accident happened shortly after closing time that Saturday evening, and workers were able to get the store up and running again by its usual Monday morning reopening. Owner Cindee Murphy said the car smashed into some of the store’s pricier, more fragile wares, such as wine glasses and gift items. She estimated damage and repairs at up to $15,000.

“It pulverized stuff,” Ms. Murphy said. “It was really a mess. It looked just like after Hurricane Charley. So we called it Hurricane Otto. At least in this case the damage was not storewide. It destroyed most of our tabletop and gift section. We still have loads of gourmet gadgets, specialty foods, etc. that were undamaged.”

Ever the one to make lemon meringue pie when life hands her lemons, she’s using the opportunity to launch a new phase for the store, which also sells kitchen equipment and offers cooking classes.

“It’s caused us to reevaluate our product mix, and so we are clearing out a lot of our table top and Florida-themed gifts to make room for a new section that will be called ‘Girlfriend Gifts at Pies & Plates,’” Ms. Murphy said.

“We’re bringing in some jewelry, purses and accessories, designer reading glasses, stationery and a great selection of gifts. To make room for the new inventory, we’ll be having an ongoing clearance till about mid-August. We plan to totally transform the retail part of the business, changing the layout and displays to make it even more inviting anda exciting for our guests.” ii Pies & Plates is at 2310 Tamiami Trail in the Publix plaza at Airport Road. For information about classes, call 505-7437 oro go to www.piesandplates.com.

Restaurants serving up summer specials

It’s summertime and the eating is easy — especially when restaurants serve up deals and discounts to keep the locals coming through the doors.

Pick up

Cee a Neighborhood Discount Card at Jack’s Restaurant and One Eleven, and you’ll be entitled to a second entrée for a penny with the purchase oi of an entrée and two beverages during lunch or dinner. It’s also good for $2 off your first drink at the bar. The card expires at the end of September, so you’vey ggot plentyp y of time to take advantage of the discounts. 201 W. Marion Ave., Punta Gorda.

Lulu at the Wyvern Hotel has a couple of sweet deals: $10.95 dinner entrees Tuesday-Thursday including prime rib, chicken marsala and pork confit. Light dinners consisting of appetizer or salad, entrée and dessert also are on special for $19.95, and entrees include crab cakes, grilled beef tournedos, habanerocrusted grilled scallops and a half-rack of lamb. 101 E. Retta Esplanade, Punta Gorda.

Table 209 has returned old favorites such as chicken liver pâté, mussels in coconut broth and blackberry-glazed rack of lamb to its menu to supplement the New Orleans cuisine it recently changed over to. In summer, the restaurant also offers free mimosas during Sunday brunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and parties of six or more get 20 percent off their bill. Bottles of wine priced $40 or more are discounted $15. 209 W. Olympia Ave, Punta Gorda.

Only a few days remain to take advantage of River City Grill’s summer BOGO promotion, which runs through Sunday. The offer is good with the purchase of a beverage, in-house dining and with a mention of the promotion. 131 W. Marion Ave., Punta Gorda.

Restaurants offering summer promotions can e-mail details to drewsterwald@gmail.com to be featured in a future column. ¦

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