Lupo is a rather unassuming place from the outside. It doesn’t have a brash exterior-just a small sign with the name hanging and a coffee sign in the window. This is where Lupo’s ethos of simplicity begins.
Inside it’s quiet and relaxed, with a clean and inviting atmosphere. There are just four tables and a window bench, comfortably fitting around 12 people. It’s an intimate setting and not a place where things are done in large quantities. There are little things everywhere – decorations, books, and personal photographs, creating a homely feeling. The plants are well tended and are healthy and green. There’s nothing more off putting than being surrounded by wilting plants. There are products for sale on the tables, shelves and benches, for customers to browse at their leisure. Pressure-free sales.
Owner Nico is originally from Rome and opened Lupo a little over a year ago. Lupo means wolf in Italian and takes its name from the legend of Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, who were raised by a female wolf.
He knows a bit about coffee. He used to be a coffee consultant and he’s off to Columbia soon on his coffee travels.
Most of the products he sells are imported from Italy. It says on the packets of biscuits that they are made especially for Lupo, and they use artisan pasta from Naples.
A board on the wall states that the coffee is hand roasted in 9 kilo batches in Italy so I anticipated something that extra bit special. I was not disappointed. I ordered a latte (8oz) which was priced at a reasonable £2.50. It came in clean, matching crockery (always important) with a leaf pattern on the top. This I was super pleased with – latte art is the sign of a well-trained barista.
The coffee tasted finely roasted and was a deep brown colour – so it was still strong despite being a latte, which it should be! It was not bitter, unlike the coffee served by some of the high street chains, and had the right balance of strength and taste. The only problem was that I couldn’t order a really big one.
They also use locally sourced, free range milk, so you can enjoy your brew knowing the cows are looked after, too.
I decided to try something off the daily specials menu as Italian food is a firm favourite of mine, especially if it is authentic and well cooked. The dishes change daily. I decided on pasta alla norma, a traditional Sicilian dish of pasta, cheese, aubergine, tomatoes and basil. It was so refreshing to have some real cuisine. The portion size was generous – what a hungry chef like me always needs – and there was plenty of cheese, which is an absolute must for me. The parmesan was fresh and full flavoured and the pasta cooked al dente as it should be.
The ingredients were well proportioned (sauce to veg ratio) and the olive oil and black pepper garnish complimented the dish to create an evenly seasoned meal. At £8, it could be considered a little expensive, especially for a meat-free dish, but if you consider the high quality of the food and import cost you can understand the pricing method. In this case, I did not begrudge paying for authenticity.
The café has a really genuine nature, run by someone who wants to deliver the best quality to his customers and perhaps try and share a little slice of home. It is all done simply and unassumingly. Nico doesn’t need to use brash advertising or gimmicks to market his business because the quality of the products and welcoming atmosphere speak for themselves. He’s clearly doing something right.
142 Chapel St, Salford M3 6AF