Lupo Marino Brings Authentic Italian Cuisine at Friendly Prices to The Wharf
Beautiful Food for the Budget Conscious
If you live in DC it should be no surprise that the sparkly new District Wharf is open for business. What you might not know is that it seems like a place for extravagance. Most of the restaurants boast three dollar signs $$$, luxury hotels and condos dot the sky line, and fancy cars can be seen picking up and dropping off those who like to be "seen." I get it, it's fun to show off and treat yourself once in a while, right? But what about the budget conscious families, or millenials who may or may not be actually trying to save up for a house? We want to hang out at the Wharf, too! If you are one of these people, I give you the fantastic Lupo Marino.
The whimsical, airy decor draws a smile across my face as I enter, where the open-style kitchen lures me in and fills me with a sense of romanticism. The staff is friendly and gracious and I am very happy to be there.
Chef Todd Sprik is the man behind the menu, drawing influence from his time in Chicago and Miami, while exuding classic Italian flavor combinations. The menu is diverse but focused, featuring something for everyone.
I am in no way ashamed to admit that we ordered almost the whole menu, so I'll tell you a little bit about some highlights for me.
Nosh on house marinated olives and spiced nuts while sipping cocktails curated by one of our Hangry Heroes Francesco Amodeo.
These salty bites will whet your appetite for some sharable first course options such as the season bruschetta options: caponata; fava beans, ricotta, mint; and salty anchovies on heirloom tomato. I loved all three, would highly recommend the caponata with it's sweet tomatoes and caramelized eggplant.
The tuna carpaccio is a must order for me. Fresh tuna thinly sliced over crispy flatbread and seasoned with a touch of truffle, fruity olive oil and fennel pollen - it takes you to the Mediterranean Sea with one bite.
The salads and specials delight at Lupo Marino with unique bites that pique curiousity and have us betting on how the dish will be served. I am a sucker for straciatella so the summer inspired spin on this salad featured summer squash, fava beans and ramp salsa verde. That salsa really RAMPed up the whole dish, utilizing a spring delicacy in a way to preserve it for the summer season, as well. Lots of texture with the stretchy cheese made for an exciting mouth feel of familiar flavors.
On special were fried squash blossoms stuffed with shrimp, ricotta and herbs over a squid ink romesco and garnished with sour sorrel. I loved this take on a dumpling - the shrimp made for a satisfying bite and something I've rarely seen done. We all chuckled at our black teeth after scraping up the last bits of the briny sauce.
A favorite fried option for me were the little fried polpettini (pork and beef meatballs). The crispy exterior was sinful and addictive, dipped in comforting marinara as I reluctantly passed the bowl to my fellow diners.
Pizza and pasta take me away! You should make sure to bring a group when you head to Lupo Marino so you can eat ALL THE CARBS.
The Sicilian style pizza exudes classic technique, but the toppings are exotic and enticing. My favorite was the Lupo Marino with porchetta, roasted pepper relish, broccolini and pecorino. I'm drooling just thinking about it. Just enough toppings to taste the flavor of each element, with a crust that doesn't flop and cheese that is evenly melted for the perfect bite.
All of the pasta is good and was a true highlight for me. The pasta is made by hand, and it's evident, as each bite was toothsome and chewy (the best way). We noshed on the Paccheri with sweet blue crab and shrimp, tender squid and a garlic saffron broth; the Spaghetti Verde featuring wild pork carbonara, cured egg yolk and pickled ramp; classic Cacio e Pepe showered with pecorino and black pepper; and finally the piece de reistance - the Gnocchi.
The gnocchi was like velvet, soft and pillowy amongst a Parmesan foam, crisp sweet peas and wild mushrooms. For me, it didn't even need any supporting ingredients - the gnocchi and Parm were enough for me. Cannot recommend this dish enough - experiencing technique like this is few and far between.
For the final act, Lupo Marino has all the hits. However, the MUST order is the espresso coffee bomb. Upon it's arrival it looks like some sort of pear tart, but don't be fooled! A rich espresso gelato acts as a pedestal for apple sorbet over crushed hazelnuts and cookies. A few sprigs of sorrel add some zip and I tried to claim the whole dish for myself.
Other highlights include the creamy tiramisu dusted with dark chocolate cocoa and the ever popular bombolone stuffed with Nutella. Would recommend treating yourself to one of these sweet treats to end your experience.
I was so happy to experience this gem of an eatery on the Wharf. It gave me hope that I could experience a quality meal without the guilt of spending my entire month's "fun" allowance.
The food is thoughtful and well executed in a space that is not only beautiful, but comfortable. Feel good about the money you spend at the Wharf and step inside a little slice of Italy for their play on classic, craveable street food.
40 Pearl St. SW,
Washington, DC 20024
Monday to Sunday 11am - 12am