As one of Colorado’s long-time leading chefs, Jim Cohen is the marquee name at Empire Lounge & Grill. When Empire opened, it put downtown Louisville on foodie map for something other than Mexican and mediocre southern Italian. Cohen’s newest venture is Pizzeria da Lupo in Boulder, which doesn’t need a boost to its sky-high reputation as a top food town, but there always seems to be room for one more good place to eat. Pizzeria da Lupo is the most recent, but not the last, upscale Neapolitan-style pizzeria, which is fast becoming a subset in the greater Boulder restaurant scene.
Cohen, a Culinary Institute of America graduate, was the opening chef at Denver’s late Plum Tree Cafe and Tante Louise, and then at Wildflower Restaurant and Cucina Rustica in The Lodge at Vail. Before it became a trend, Cohen was sourcing as many of his ingredients as possible from local growers and ranchers and seeking organic products. Julia Child herself named him one of the top chefs in the U.S. and invited him to her first “Dining with Julia” television program, and he was a nominee for a James Beard Foundation “Best Chef in the Southwest” award in 1991. He left Colorado to become executive chef at The Phoenician in Scottsdale Arizona and then at Terrazza in Caesars Palace, Las Vegas. Both were big, prestigious properties, but he returned to Colorado more than four years ago to open his own restaurant.
The Siren Call of Pizza
With Empire a healthy three-year-old, it was time for another baby. Cohen just delivered onto the Boulder restaurant scene his long-dreamed-of pizzeria. His partner is Ken Wolf, whose business interests are as diverse as a candy company and Mexican real estate. Lupo is Italian for wolf, that’s the backstory of the pizzeria’s name, but Cohen remains the culinary driving force. Within the context of Boulder’s stature in foodie world and the developing a pizza subculture eveloping, and my husband and I wanted to meet Cohen’s newest offspring.
Pizzeria da Lupo is a long, deep space nextdoor to Larkburger in the Village Shopping Center. The front part holds a few wooden tables. The center is occupied by a counter/bar where customers can watch the pizzaioli at work and be mesmerized by the wood oven’s dancing flames. Booths line one wall in the back. The tables and chairs are plain, but the tile floor is a polychrome beauty. The pendant lights, chandeliers and other fixtures are really interesting (Cohen said that Wolf picked them up in Argentina) and the old framed photographs and other memorabiliat on the walls evoke a traditional neighborhood restaurant — of maybe nonna’s dining room.
Pizzeria da Lupo has some very good design elements, and some fun touches, like dishcloths used as napkins and a clothespin instead of a leatherette check presenter or plastic tray. But we were there for a couple of salads and a pizza. We started with a Montepulciano for me and a beer for my husband, and ordered.