Friday, March 5, 2010

Coppa: Worth the Wait?

Coppa is extremely popular right now, and a wait of 2-3 hours on the weekend seems common. Is it worth the wait, or should you dine elsewhere?

Coppa, which has only been open for a couple months, is a joint venture between the well-known Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette. You may be familiar with Toro, the Spanish tapas restaurant where both men worked together. Chef Bissonnette certainly did an excellent job there, creating some incredible dishes, and he has also garnered fame for his snout to tail cooking. He is very talented so prior to Coppa opening, there were high expectations.

The restaurant is small, only seating about 40 people, and the cuisine is Italian, including small plates, pasta, wood-fired pizza, antipasto, and salumi. Nothing on the menu costs more than $15, so it is fairly affordable. They only have a wine, beer and cordials license. The Italian wine list includes some less common choices, and there are about 16 wines available by the glass, priced $5-$12. There are numerous bottles under $40, so even the wine list is relatively affordable. Despite their limitations, they make numerous inventive cocktails, generally priced at $8 each.

With my friend Dale, we stopped by on a Monday evening, around 6:30pm, and were able to get a table, though the restaurant was nearly full. Throughout the evening, it does not appear that anyone had to wait long, if at all, for a table. So, if you don't want to wait 2-3 hours on the weekend, you might want to stop by on a weeknight when the restaurant is not so crowded.

The menu is very intriguing, and it was difficult to choose which items to order as so many sounded good. You'll find some more unusual items on the menu, including offal, and you should not shy away from such items. Chef Bissonnette can work magic with such ingredients and you might be surprised at how much you enjoy those dishes. The menu also changes frequently, especially due to what is freshly available.

We selected a bottle of wine (about $35) made from the Gaglioppo grape, and it was quite good, an easy-drinking, light red wine. Before our food came, we also received some fresh, rustic bread with oil. This is a good bread for later during your meal if you want to sop up any of the sauces.

The first dish to arrive at our table was the Coda del Porco ($11), a pig's tail with a mostarda glaze. There was plenty of tender meat and the sweet mostarda complemented the flavorful pork. A tasty dish, and even if the idea of a pig's tail makes you squeamish you should try this item. You won't even realize it is a tail.

I should note that as many of the items on the menu are small plates, they are best enjoyed by a single person or shared by two people. If more than two people share the same dish, they might only have a single bite. Thus, if you have 3-4 people who all want to eat the same dish, I would recommend ordering two of them so you all can best enjoy it.

I do love Arancini ($5) so had to order them here. They were good, with a nice crunchy exterior, a creamier interior and a slightly sweet red sauce. But, they were also rather ordinary. Based on much of the rest of the menu, you might have expected these arancini to have been more unique. Yes, they are tasty but they might have been better with some type of twist.

The Fettucine di Castagne con Bruno ($12) is a chestnut pasta with a wild boar ragu. This hearty dish really impressed me, with its nutty fettucine and plenty of tender meat in a rich, flavorful sauce. It was an earthier dish and went very well with our wine. The pasta was cooked just right and I could have easily devoured a large bowl of this dish. Highly recommended.

The Spaghetti alla Carbonara ($12) contains smoked pancetta, farm egg, scallions and sea urchin! This was a creamier dish than the other pasta, though with a touch of smokiness and some briny notes from the sea urchin. The pasta was once again cooked just right, and it was a tasty and enjoyable dish.

Back to another rich and earthy dish, the Saltimbocca ($11), a sweetbread saltimbocca with mushrooms, pancetta, and sage. Lots of delicious flavors and textures that melded together into a harmonious whole. The crispy sweetbreads were heavenly, the salty prosciutto being an excellent wrapper. Definitely recommended.

Our final dish, and my favorite of the evening, was the Blue Ribbon Pizza ($15) with the addition of Blood-Sausage Pepperoni ($4). This pizza has mozzarella, tomato, braised oxtail, bone marrow and horseradish. The restaurant has a wood-burning oven, which had been there from the previous restaurant, Dish. This lightly charred pizza was fantastic! The multitude of flavors tantalized my palate, especially the pepperoni. The thinly sliced pepperoni burst with spicy taste. I also enjoyed the crispy crust and it was plenty large enough for two people. Another dish I highly recommend! I think it will be hard for me to return to Coppa and not order this again.

Service was excellent, though I do note that the dishes came out rather quickly. They did not try to rush us, to free up the table, but rather the kitchen is just on top of the orders and gets them out quickly. I might have liked a bit more time between some of the courses, and would ask for that the next time I dined here. Our server was personable, pleasant and accomodating.

Even though it was a Monday night, Chef Bissonnette was hard at work in the kitchen. I am always pleased to see a working chef, one who is often in the kitchen of his restaurant. Such chefs deserve much respect. The food at Coppa is very strong, and I understand why there are large crowds on the weekends. It is food that is worth the wait, though I recommend going on weeknights to avoid much of the wait. I like the small plates concept, always have, and think it works well here. I will definitely be returning here, to try more of the menu, and maybe getting that pizza again.

Lingering thought: Blood sausage pepperoni!

253 Shawmut Ave
Boston, MA
Phone: (617) 391-0902

Coppa on Urbanspoon


Dale Cruse said...

That dinner was great & I'm really glad we got to try Coppa - especially without having to wait.

I meant to mention during dinner that I thought the Spaghetti alla Carbonara would have been even better if it was the first pasta dish we had instead of trying to follow the wild boar. The more delicate flavors (if pancetta & sea urchin can be considered delicate!) were a bit muted to me when served second among the pastas.

Great meal!

Sarah @ Semi-Sweet said...

Just found this thru Urban Spoon, and I posted a review of Coppa on my blog the very same day . . . we ate a lot of different things, but we agree it's great! Nice write-up.