It’s bustling, even on a weeknight. After it’s white-hot opening last year, there are still throngs of people waiting patiently to grab a seat at one of the city’s most sought-after place. It’s Coppa, there’s no cabana, but there is a crowded floor.
Coppa Enoteca by Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette is a small, intimate restaurant tucked in a little corner in the South End. But just because it’s small and unassuming doesn’t mean it’s uninspired nor undiscovered. First of all, Coppa is headed by two rockstar chefs (Ken Oringer only has you know, a measly five restaurants in Boston; while Jamie Bissonnette was recently awarded People’s Choice Best New Chef Award by Food & Wine, no biggie). Second, Coppa’s Italian-based menu is pretty much textbook for nose-to-tail eating. From calf’s brains (the night’s specialty) to spaghetti carbonara with uni (sea urchin) to blood sausage pepperoni, every part of the animal is utilized to tease and satisfy the diner’s palette. And last but not least, the small plates at Coppa are what keep the crowds lining up for hours and then coming back for more.
Last week I had the pleasure of dining there with some fabulous ladies, who I am lucky to call as blogger-friends-who-turned-into-real-life-friends. Let me just say that one of the best things I truly love about being a food blogger is the friendships I have formed with other bloggers in the community. Even though I started blogging years ago, I really only “went public” with Confessions of a Chocoholic last year, and since then have met some wonderful people who offer support, inspiration, and genuine camaraderie. And of course, it’s always fun to have dining companions who love food as much as I do (and who whip out their cameras to capture our meals). So it was great to make dinner plans with Elina, Megan, Meghan, Michelle, and Daisy.
We chose several items from the menu, and the small plates were perfect because we were able to taste a lot of dishes without filling up too much. We had some stuzzichini (Italian small bar snacks), salumi, offal, cold antipasti, woodfire pizza, pasta, sides, and the night’s special seafood offering.
Our first round of small plates were delightful, and I really liked the tonno conserva – the creaminess of the tuna, the saltiness of the anchovies, and the crunch of the baguette played together nicely. I almost wish we ordered two of this; I guess the downside of ordering a bunch of small plates for a big group is you can only taste a bite of each, but good thing there was a lot more to come!
The heartier dishes started…
Pesto pasta may seem like a safe choice, but it’s a classic for a reason – it’s always a crowd pleaser! Coppa’s version had fingerling potatoes. Again, not particularly interesting, but a solid dish nonetheless.
With this I knew why the offal dishes at Coppa are so popular. The chefs take an unpopular cut of meat and dress it up all fancy, all roasted and glazed and sweet and spicy at the same time. This pig tail was an amalgam of textures and flavors (although admittedly I still prefer the ones from Craigie on Main). It was crunchy and tender, seemingly lean and not heart-attack inducing fatty (but trust me, it still is full of porky fat), topped with garlic and peppers and apples and chives.
Some of the slices had big chunks of the (really) spicy sausage, which made my mouth water a little bit, but that happens a lot.
*This promise is only good for this post.
Coppa’s carbonara had house made pasta with smoked bacon, sea urchin, and farm egg. It certainly didn’t taste like the carbonara that I’m used to (made with cream and pancetta), but it was rich, with a subtle brininess from the uni. Compared to the pesto pasta, this certainly didn’t taste like a familiar classic. It tasted new and exciting.
There was actually one dish I didn’t like during our dinner: it was the night’s special of cod crudo with burrata. I just didn’t think that cold fish go very well with cheese…
Now this wasn’t just any chocolate dessert. This was chocolate covered… foie gras. Eeep. I wanted to like it, I really did, but it was hard for me to swallow even one teensy little bite. I love those two things, but definitely not together.
I was very pleased with Coppa, and the delicious dinner was amplified because of the fun company of friends (thanks ladies!). I highly recommend checking it out if you’re looking for inventive, Italian-inspired small plates. The rave reviews and the adoring crowds are right – Coppa is worth the wait.
What’s your favorite small plates restaurant in your area? Can you think of a fantastic small plate you’ve recently eaten?