Tonight I had dinner with a friend at a new South End restaurant Coppa. Coppa is the latest restaurant opened by local celebrity chef Ken Oringer. Oringer is also the creative culinary mind behind KO Prime, La Verdad, Toro, and Clio. Unlike other celebrity chefs who focus on one style of food (Mario Batali does Italian, Ming Tsai does Chinese) Oringer is trying his hand at everything for steak to Mexican, Spanish to sushi, and in this case, Italian small plates.
When we arrived at Coppa, the minute we walked through the door I felt I'd been transported to New York City. Coppa's space is small, with tables nestled right up against each other. The hostess doesn't have a hostess stand, but instead meanders through the crowd. She let us know we could sit at the bar on a first come, first serve basis, or we could wait 25 - 60 minutes for a table. 25 - 60 minutes? What kind of window is that? Side bar, we tried to make a reservation, but the restaurant doesn't take them (a major pet peeve of mine).
We opted for the bar and got seats within 10 minutes. By sitting at the bar we were able to watch one of the chefs prep the cold appetizers behind the bar, and slice the cured meats (one of Coppa's specialties).
We each started with a glass of wine (white for me, red for her) and we ordered two "bar snacks." While we waited, our waitress brought over bread and olive oil. The bread was so tough, it was almost impossible to chew.
Since we gave up on the bread, thankfully our first appetizer arrived, the pesto di zucca, which was zucchini pesto crostini with almonds. Although this bread was also too hard (I tried to cut it, and it flew across the bar), the zucchini was fresh, delightfully seasoned, and the almonds were an unusual and delicious touch.
Our second appetizer was the arancini, which are fried risotto balls. These were absolutely fantastic and served piping hot. The risotto melted in your mouth and was served with a tomato sauce that had just the right amount of kick. This is a must order item!
For dinner I had the cauliflower flat bread pizza. It was served on a very thin crust with red chili pepper flakes which gave each slice a celebratory kick! While I could have used more cheese, or a side of marinara to dip the crust in, the flavor combination was great.
After licking our plates clean, we asked if there was a dessert menu. To our shock and dismay, all they offer is gelato! We are both serious dessert girls and wished we could have ended on a sweet note.
While there were a few bumps in the road at Coppa, the food is fresh, seasoned perfectly, and offers some exciting flavor combinations. The New York vibe is a nice change from the typical Boston restaurant scene, and the menu is expansive enough you can keep coming back and trying new things.
Bravo, Ken! Salud!