Paying rent during the Covid pandemic has been a hardship—and hot topic—for many in the restaurant industry. Now the owners of Arlington’s popular Pupatella Pizzeria say they plan to close their decade-old flagship on Wilson Boulevard after their landlord demanded a 40 percent rent increase after their lease is up in March.
“He doesn’t see all the expenses involved and that the profit margins are so slim right now,” says co-owner Anastasiya Algarme, who runs the business with her husband, chef Enzo Algarme. “He assumes since we’re opening new restaurants it must be from money we’ve made from this restaurant. It’s not true—we got a big investment from others we’re paying back.”
In 2018, Pupatella received $3.75 million from several investors to open eight new locations of the fast-casual Neapolitan pizzeria. It was also set to launch a franchise. Locations in South Arlington and Richmond debuted last year but Enzo Algarme says they halted the franchise plans because “he wasn’t as happy or comfortable with that model.”
Algarme says they’re currently going month-to-month at 5104 Wilson Boulevard and are actively searching for a new location in the vicinity—ideally with a similar setup that includes a parking lot and patio, which are boons for the business in the Covid era.
Pupatella is also readying to open its first-ever DC location near Dupont Circle in the old Rosemary’s Thyme space. The 18th Street restaurant will have a similar menu of wood-fired Neapolitan pizzas, salads, Italian beers and wines, and friggitoria (fried snacks like arancini and crispy mozzarella balls). A large wraparound patio will provide outdoor seating. Algarme says they’ll open as soon as July.