Small Plates at Coppa

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.

upon settling down, we immediately ordered cocktails. I got one with pineapple and Pimm's

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.

house-made salumi on a cute pig cutting board

chicken liver crostini

meatballs alforno

tonno conserva - cured tuna belly with anchovies on baguette slice

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!

we ordered a bottle of summer Rose to share too

The heartier dishes started…

half plate of trophie con pesto

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.

roasted pig tail with mostarda glaze

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.

salsiccia pizza with tomato, spicy sausage and ricotta

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.

garlicky asparagus with a poached egg

Are you tired of hearing about my love for eggs yet? Okay, I’ll stop talking about runny yolks then.*

*This promise is only good for this post.

spaghetti alla carbonara

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.

at this point we were ready for our second bottle of wine: a Prosecco Faive Rose Brut

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…

this cheese plate, on the other hand, goes very well with wine to signal our meal coming to an end

except we can't end our meal without chocolate, right??

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.

we also had a more traditional dessert of bread pudding with coffee whipped cream

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?

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