Del Lusso Napoletana Pizzeria in Carlsbad takes its pizza very seriously. All of its pizza flour, tomatoes, olive oil, cured meats and cheeses are imported from Italy, and its pizza recipes were developed on-site by Naples-born consulting chef Gianni Gallucci of Chicago, who won first place in the Neapolitan division at the 2017 Caputo Cup Championship, one of the largest pizza competitions in the U.S.
So why is one of the most popular items on the 20-month-old restaurant’s menu a poutine appetizer?
That’s the creation of Walter Wong, the restaurant’s Canadian-born owner and convivial host. A child of Chinese immigrants, Wong is a self-trained chef who grew up in an ethnically mixed neighborhood of Montreal around Italians, Greeks, French and Arabs. From a young age he developed a passion for Mediterranean cuisine, and after a long career in the software and retail industries, the Carlsbad resident achieved his lifelong dream of opening his own restaurant last year.
All of the pastas and plated dishes on the menu at Del Lusso are Wong’s own creations, including his top-selling dish, the spaghetti alla Francisco, a generously portioned and delicious pasta dish made with organic grilled chicken, roasted mushrooms, sautéed spinach, Parmesan cheese, garlic, cream and a finishing squeeze of lemon ($19).
His culinary approach to cooking is to spotlight the best quality ingredients — “Del Lusso” is Italian for “of luxury” — by preparing them in pure, uncomplicated ways to elevate and celebrate their flavors. In Canada, poutine is a traditional winter warm-up comfort food dish made simply with French fries topped with cheese curds and brown gravy. Wong’s tasty and super-sized version features hand-cut fries, slow-roasted and shredded Berkshire pork, a light au jus gravy and Italian Fior Di Latte mozzarella cheese ($18).
The 70-seat indoor/outdoor restaurant’s main attraction is its pizzas, and diners have 18 to choose from, including nine red sauce pizzas and nine white (sauce-free) pies. They’re priced from $18 to $20 and can feed two, or one very hungry person. Gluten-free crust is available. The pizzas cook in just 90 seconds in a custom-made, 725-degree Marra Forni brick revolving oven. Specialties include the spicy Fabri Fibra red pizza ($19), named after an Italian rapper that Wong knows, and the flavorful Funghi, a white pizza made with roasted garlic, seasonal mushrooms and truffle oil ($17).
All the pizza sauces, dips, fennel sausage, meatballs and flatbread are made in house. Only the desserts are brought in, from an Italian family bakery and gelateria in Los Angeles. The restaurant also serves a selection of red and white wines by the glass and bottle, craft beers, hard cider and sparkling wines from the U.S., France and Italy. Beers start at $7.50 and wines by the glass start at $9.
Despite the pandemic, or perhaps because of it, Del Lusso has become a popular hangout for Carlsbad regulars, many of whom dine there up to three times a week. Part of it is the food quality and big portions, and part of it is Wong, who likes to greet virtually every guest as if they’re arriving in his home, and who tastes the food daily to ensure consistency.
But it’s also because Wong has given back to the community. Immediately after the COVID-19 shutdown order began in March 2020, he began offering free pizzas to essential workers, and then to the unemployed, and later to single moms and dads. He also offered free home-delivered meals to people who couldn’t risk leaving their homes before the vaccine was approved. Over an 18-month period, he gave away more than 400 meals to Carlsbad-area residents.
Now, the community is returning the favor for that loyalty.
Del Lusso Napoletana Pizzeria
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays; 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays
Where: 6021 Innovation Way, Suite 120, Carlsbad
Phone: (760) 851-0097