WEST VILLAGES — “May fortune favor the foolish. … Or the bold. I’ve heard it both ways.”
Despite a pandemic that’s closed all Florida sit-down dining, co-owner David Valentino perfectly summed up his family’s decision to go ahead and open their third Bocca Lupo Coal Fired Pizza in West Villages Marketplace on Tuesday.
Asked whether they’d had any trouble with the decision, Valentino said, “No. We just didn’t push. Usually you’re running hard through the tape, as it were. And pushing everyone along with you. That just wasn’t necessary under these circumstances. So we took an extra few days.”
The 4,500-square-foot restaurant, whose bar alone holds 25, can’t seat anyone at the moment. But Tuesday at noon, takeout orders were flying out the window, while staff stacked up pizza boxes to the ceiling, for anticipated heavy ordering.
“We’re excited about having designed and built a first-generation space here,” said Valentino. “One fun difference, because we had a clean palette, is that we could situate our coal-fired oven — our ‘Wolf,’ as we call her — in an open kitchen in the center of the dining room.
“It’s the largest production oven manufactured in the United States, all the way from Bellingham, Washington. You never want her to fully cool. So, at the end of the night, we ‘bank’ her and contain her as a living fire.”
Ever since Valentino’s brother, co-owner Dennis, first lit the Port Charlotte Wolf 10 years ago, she’s been burning continuously.
“We transported that same fire to the North Port location when we opened there five years ago. And Monday we carried her coals to West Villages, so the same fire can live in all of our restaurants.”
“Just like a car or a boat,” David explained, “you want to give her a personality. It reminds you how to treat her right. She’s the lifeblood of our restaurant.”
Along with other Bocca Lupos in Port Charlotte and North Port, the West Villages store offers takeout of the whole menu, as well as six-packs. For West Villages, call 941-676-WOLF (9653). Open noon to 9 p.m. daily. Visit www.BoccaLupoPizza.com.
For the duration of the coronavirus crisis, Bocca Lupos will use all proceeds from Tuesday night’s “Pizza for a Cause” to give free pizza to local hospitals, emergency personnel and others on the front lines.