An Upper Arlington native and owner of the Grandview mainstay La Tavola is set to open a new restaurant in Upper Arlington that will draw on his Spanish and Italian heritage.
Growing up on Wickford Road, Rick Lopez spent his formative years perusing shops in The Mallway along Arlington Avenue and swimming at Devon Pool.
He also cultivated an interest in food that paid homage to his Italian lineage. He originally opened La Tavola in 1999 and has operated its third iteration at 1665 W. First Ave. in Grandview since March 2014.
Lopez's latest venture, Lupo, is expected to open April 10 at 2124 Arlington Ave. It dives deeper into those roots, taking its name from his family's Italian surname.
Lupo also will draw from the Spanish side of Lopez's family, offering a revolving variety of tapas with fresh, seasonal, Mediterranean-inspired ingredients and a raw-oyster bar.
"I had three grandparents from Italy and one from Spain," Lopez said. "This reflects just my love of tapas.
"I went to Spain in the '90s and fell in love with the tapas idea and wanted to bring it here. I feel like the cuisine has never really been focused on in Columbus."
Lopez said tapas, appetizers and small plates at Lupo will primarily range in price from $5 to $20.
There also will be large-plate items such as a 60-day, dry-aged ribeye and, when available, rare prawns.
"The menu will change every day, like La Tavola's," Lopez said. "I love to try different things, and portions you get are very health-conscious."
Todd Elder, who works at La Tavola and spent eight years at Barcelona in German Village, will be the chef at Lupo. Lopez calls him "one of the best up-and-coming chefs" in the Columbus area.
Lopez's wife and business partner, Krista, will bake breads and desserts for Lupo, and there will be a full bar featuring wine, cocktails and craft beers.
Then there's the ambiance, which Lopez said will be unique because of the space, an old Ohio National Bank site.
He said the former bank vault has been transformed into a private dining room that can accommodate parties of six to 10.
"I wanted Lupo to feel welcoming, warm and personal," said Ashley Puckett, owner of Opal Stackhouse, an interior design firm. "There are a lot of handmade aspects to the interior design of Lupo."
Puckett said her firm added some architectural details such as trim and millwork to make Lupo feel "a little more homey."
Her team created the oyster-bar sign, used bits of vintage wallpaper that she's "been saving for years for the perfect project," vintage botanicals, custom-made brass hardware and globe lighting.
"All these little things that make the space feel like it's one of a kind because it is a one-of-a-kind, special custom interior," she said. "We used a lot of materials we have saved from demolition.
"Our design philosophy is: 'make it real.' If you make it out of real, honest materials that have a history and story, it will feel authentic."
Lopez said his fare will be as authentic as the decor, including ingredients raised by local farmers and a rotating selection of 15 different types of coastal oysters.
"It fits with the concept of small plates," Lopez said. "We're going to have a great amount of wines, sparkling wines and sherries that go great with oysters.
"There will always be something on the menu that people can try and be adventurous."