The focus here is on an authentic Italian experience with fresh pasta and pizza made on-site daily using imported flour. This branch is the third Lupa in Durban, with all menus devised by chef Chris Black, featuring a selection of antipasti, salads, meat and seafood dishes.
Think Italian and order a variety of starters to share. The spicy chicken livers, crispy polenta fingers with a creamy gorgonzola-and-mushroom sauce and the pretzel-dusted Falkland calamari are all recommended. If the risotto cakes are on the specials board, get them: crispy on the outside and deliciously oozy inside. The Roman-style artichoke is also memorable: It’s served whole, crumbed and fried, with minty mayo for dipping. Other options include gorgonzola snails, beef or pork meatballs in slow-roasted tomato sauce, and beef carpaccio. An antipasto platter comes balanced on a large tomato can, filled with an array of cured meats, parma ham, cheese, zucchini fries, olives, marinated brinjal and focaccia.
Pasta varieties include spaghetti, fettuccine, penne and gnocchi (with gluten-free options available at a surcharge). Sauces are all home-made and range from the simple Loula (tomato with fresh basil) to the more well-known Alfredo bolognaise, marinara and meatball options, or the delicious vegetarian zucchini with chilli, garlic, crispy fried spinach balls and Grana Padano cheese.
Wood-fired pizzas include the usual suspects, as well as some novel toppings like fennel pork sausage, caramelised pineapple, pine nuts and chilli honey.
Carnivores can choose from wood-roasted chicken or lamb shank, as well as veal cooked two ways, or a balsamic avo fillet stack served with white-wine risotto. Seafood options include kingklip with white wine, lemon and capers; fresh line fish when available; and calamari. The kids aren’t forgotten with a special Little Lupas menu for under 12s with a budget-friendly R70 price tag for a meal and drink plus dessert.
The wine list is varied, but it’s on the pricey side. Corkage-free Mondays encourage you to bring your own to enjoy with your meal at no charge.
Service is attentive but not intrusive, and you’ll be forgiven for feeling as if you’re at home with the famiglia with the relaxed vibe and convivial atmosphere.
Subway tiles and leather banquette seating give this eatery a modern edge, with brightly coloured Tolix stools providing pops of colour.
The dough room offers a welcome distraction for kids who get to see the pizza bases and pasta being made, as well as the charcuterie slicer in action.
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The menu was devised by chef Chris Black, who has made a name for his Italian food. And although this is a franchise, the kitchen executes his dishes with aplomb. Think starters like pretzel-dusted calamari, carpaccio, or tomato-and-mozzarella risotto cakes served with zucchini fries. Pizzas – made with imported flour and cooked in the wood-fired oven – are exemplary and also come in a gluten-free version. Toppings range from Parma ham, Philly cream cheese and rocket to chorizo, feta, peppadews, chilli and avocado. Pasta is homemade (select a sauce to pair with your choice of pasta) and a trademark dish is the salsicce with Italian fennel sausages, bacon, mushrooms, Chianti and cream. Meaty dishes include veal Marsala and lamb shank, while seafood offerings include kingklip roasted in the pizza oven with lemon, capers, white wine and garlic. Decadent dessert options include the Nutella pizza with ice cream, as well as homemade tiramisu and a salted-popcorn sundae.
A compact but well considered wine list is presented per varietal and provides a balance between value and quality. There’s a small selection of Italian wines and bubblies, plus a range of craft beers.
Professional waiters are prompt, friendly and industrious, giving the right amount of attention without being intrusive. The kitchen processes orders very efficiently.
Lupa successfully combines the necessary warmth expected of a neighbourhood eatery with playful contemporary touches. Blonde and almond wood floors and tables (with no formal dressing) are juxtaposed with orange and white metal chairs and exposed brick. The front opens up with large windows that allow local passers-by to peer inquisitively into the perpetually busy restaurant.
The two-course kids’ menu with a cold drink offers good value for money.