LUPO Providenciales (Provo), Turks & Caicos IslandsRestaurant Reviewed May / June 2016
The bright interior dining area at LUPO is air-conditioned
LUPO owner, Mark Dillon is absolutely passionate about Italian cuisine. That’s not blood coursing through his veins, it’s Marinara sauce! He is the consummate host; approachable, accessible and unquestionably learned in his knowledge and the craft of Italian food. He affectionately calls LUPO his version of a ‘red sauce joint’ – where here in the Caribbean, he plays more to the hankerings of his American Italian audience.
The Chefs at LUPO share Mark’s formidable passion. Each dish is created and prepared by blending classic Italian tradition with innovative and sophisticated twists.
There’s an audible hum of relaxed and contented diners basking in the simple Italian pleasures – the joy of food, wine and conversation. Dine al fresco on the piazza beneath whimsical strings of lights, or inside where the cozy ambiance is reminiscent of a trattoria in Italy. Mark is always happy to offer recommendations and speaks about every dish with wholehearted gusto and unbridled enthusiasm.
Delicious Mozza Sticks Appetizer at LUPO
Our table began to generate our own audible hum as we tucked into our first shared dish, Calamari Don Vito. Gasps of delight ensued over the substantial serving of this Sicilian-style dish that flooded the table with mouth-watering aromas. Calamari rings were sautéed to absolute tender perfection, with a lively and spicy tomato sauce, olives, capers, and slices of grilled bread. You’ll want to soak up every last savoury and aromatic drop of that gorgeous, zesty sauce.
Arancini is one of Italian cuisine’s ultimate indulgences. This risotto ball is stuffed with provolone cheese, breaded, then fried and topped with a dollop of pesto. Served in a lovely pool of spicy tomato sauce, slicing into the crispy exterior released a gush of melted cheese that oozed onto the plate and became one with the creamy risotto, tomato sauce and herbaceous pesto.
While we’re talking indulgences, let’s talk Mozza Sticks. Sticks of creamy mozzarella cheese are breaded, deep fried and served with a Marinara dipping sauce. As you sink your teeth into the crispy outer stratum and begin to bite, brace yourself for the flow of long and lovely strands of molten, gooey cheese. Need I say more?
LUPO’s rendition of Caicos Lobster Salad
LUPO’s new Lobster Salad was a knock-out dish. A creamy Old Bay Dressing brought a whole new flavour profile to this exotic and uber fresh salad with tender morsels of poached Caicos lobster, celery and diced romaine. Petite radish matchsticks and chives topped this elegant and refreshing dish.
Mark suggested pizza to share as a middle course. A Primavera pizza, with fresh house-made ricotta, marinated artichokes and zucchini was recently added to the menu. “It’s light, fresh, flavourful. It’s my favourite right now.” Mark admitted. The Margherita is a classic, and the always popular, off-the-wall ‘Bobby Lupo’ pizza was inspired by Steven Seagal’s film, Out for Justice. If you’ve seen it, you’re probably grinning and nodding in respect and understanding. Topped with pork and fennel sausage, roasted Bermuda onions, mushrooms and Provolone, don’t be surprised if a customer walks in and shouts, “Anybody know why Richie did Bobby Lupo?” Mark laughed and confessed, “I’ve seen the scene over and over again.”
The famous Roasted Chicken Supreme
Mark is as equally enthusiastic about wine as he is about food and was excited to tell us about his expanded wine list – and in particular, a Features section. “It gives me a chance to play around with different varietals, some fun wines,” he said, and added, “My thing is to get as good of a quality as I can for a low price so I can pass on the savings.”
We kicked off the evening with a 2011 Irrosso di Casanova di Neri, a vibrant Sangiovese blend, with spicy notes. Now for one of Mark’s fun features, a more full-bodied 2011 Rosso Toscana IGT, Message in a Bottle. Yes, musician, Sting and his wife own the vineyard, Il Palagio. A blend of Sangiovese, Syrah and Merlot, the label says, ‘Compliments many dishes, but goes most perfectly with friends, loved ones and convivial conversation.’ SOS is even printed on the cork! Saluti!
LUPO’s popular Bistecca
Branzino, a.k.a. Mediterranean Sea Bass, is a beautifully delicate fish. A flawless pan-sear rendered a fantastic crispy skin on one side, and moist and tender meat on the other. Served on a bed of savoury stewed lentils and spicy broccoli, the crowning glory was a fresh and flavourful Salsa Verde. LUPO buys the branzino fresh and whole right off the boat, where it’s packed at the dock and flown in from North Carolina.
My husband’s Bistecca, Black Angus Flank Steak, was marvelous. The Romesco sauce was the game changer here and totally elevated this steak and potato dish to a whole new level. A twist on the classic Spanish preparation of roasted tomatoes, peppers, garlic and almonds, LUPO uses, predominantly, hazelnuts from Piedmont.
My Rigatoni was outstanding. Sweet and tender chunks of Caicos Lobster, morsels of cauliflower and supersize al dente rigatoni noodles were drenched in a splendidly rich and creamy Alfredo sauce. But wait, there’s a pièce de résistance – a spicy breadcrumb topping. There was so much going on here. I gushed to Mark about the fabulous crumb topping. He smiled knowingly and said, “Just gives it a little texture – touches the mouth.”
Handmade Pasta specials are offered at LUPO, Lobster Rigatoni shown
LUPO’s hugely popular Roasted Chicken Supreme has recently transitioned from a Wednesday special to the full time menu. No one was happier than my fellow diner to hear of this development, who said, rather emphatically, to Mark, “The chicken will be on the menu.” The table erupted into laughter as this was not posed as a question – but as a statement. My colleague briefly considered our amusement and insisted, “It should be. No one does chicken like that.” Roasted bone-in chicken is smothered in a luscious Marsala cream sauce, with portabella mushrooms and a house-made pork and fennel sausage and served with an equally legendary counterpart, Polenta Fries.
Once you have experienced Polenta Fries, you will never look at a potato in the guise of a French fry again. Prepared polenta is cut into sticks and then fried, yielding a golden, crispy exterior that gives way to a rich and creamy core. An act of pure genius and absolute decadence. These polenta fries can also be ordered from the antipasti menu and plunged into a sensational truffled garlic and artichoke aioli.
Dine indoors or outside at Lupo in the Regent Village
Hot off the grill, and the menu press … LUPO presents a new burger – 100% Angus Beef patty is stuffed with wild mushrooms, topped with Provolone, basil pesto, and that marvelous Romesco sauce, and is then served on a garlic butter brioche. Mark explained that the wild mushrooms give it a really nice flavour profile, and their moisture remains trapped inside the burger.
‘Dolce’ includes the usual suspects like Tiramisu and Affogato, plus a few unusual suspects like Rum Cake and the Nutella Brownie. The plate was slathered with creamy Nutella that fused the warm, rich, decadent, huge brownie to the plate, and the scoop of rich and creamy vanilla ice cream was the perfect yin for my yang.
LUPO … now that’s Italian! But don’t take it from me, take it from my Italian friend who said, “Now I know this stuff. I’m a paesano. It was fabulous. I will be back!”
Photography by Lisa Adara Photo
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