insights on art, culture, lifestyle, spirituality, travel, music, society and much much more from a jet-setter currently on "furlough"…

if food critics could mislead…


La Pupatella *Neopolitan* Food Cart - Arlington, VAActually, they did! Is it just me, or is it exceptionally hard to find inexpensive, quality food in the Washington, DC Area?

Now, before you start shaking your fists and start a heated debate, allow me to explain myself. Back in the day, the quality of food was not important to me at all. Eating freshly prepared foods was a foreign concept, especially during the time I was in college. I had no idea how much I was missing out until I spent 4 months studying abroad in Orvieto, Umbria, Italy in 2004, and had the privilege to dine on freshly prepared, authentic Italian cuisine from a variety of regions and secret recipes. Simply put, food is serious business in Italy and the rest of the world. Since then, I’ve been more picky about not only Italian food, but other cuisine in general. It wasn’t hard to see which foods were carefully prepared and which ones were simply thrown together. In fact, I’ve been overseas (to Asia and Europe) almost every year since then and every time I venture back from my travels (I just ate my way through Spain in June), the more I realize how bad the food really is in this area. 

Which brings me to last Friday… my fellow foodie friend (and even harsher critic) G wanted to try out this food cart in the Ballston area of Arlington, VA.We have heard and read rave reviews about this place, so the next right thing to do was to try it for ourselves. Pupatella, which is Italian slang for “doll”, is a diminutive fire engine red food cart that is parked in front of the Ballston Metro. It is owned by 20-something CIA graduates Anastasiya Laufenberg, who works inside the cart and does most of the cooking and Enzo Algarme, who comes at lunchtime to grill. Their main specialty is Neopolitan pizza (Margherita – $6/with Mozarella di Buffala – $9) and on Fridays only, arancini (stuffed, fried rice balls). Just reading the descriptions made my heart leap with joy and took my taste buds on a trip down memory lane. Perhaps this will be just as good as the food carts I use to frequent while living in Bella Italia…

The best pizza you've ever eaten?!

Unfortunately, that was NOT the case. We had to wait over 20 minutes in the hot sun for our food (the Friday lunch crowd was out and about, however) and when we took the pizza and arancini back home to eat, it was a major disappointment. The pizza had BLACK PEPPER on it, which is something un-Italian and simply unheard of. Plus, the crust was hard and it tasted like a propane tank had leaked on it. The arancini was over-fried and flavorless, plus way too small and overpriced to be considered a “meal”.

Arancini that should have tasted better...

On a positive note, however, the owners were exceptionally friendly and good-natured, and their lunch cart seemed to draw locals and tourists alike. Perhaps we caught them on an off-day, but still… let’s hope that in the future, when they open their first restaurant, things such as careful food preparation and authenticity will be taken into consideration. 

As for dining from the cart again?! Che ne so…

Ballston Metro Station
Stuart St and 9th St

ArlingtonVA 22203

(571) 243-2952


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