Translated from Italian, the word “enoteca” means “wine repository”, a term originally used to describe local and regional wine shops in Italy. These enoteca function as “Wine Libraries” of sorts, allowing customers to try multiple wines without having to buy full bottles. Some enoteca also serve snack plates and local food to pair with the wine, and the term has come to be used to describe restaurants as well, particularly ones that serve Italian fare. Co-owned by chefs Ken Oringer and Jaime Bissonnette, Coppa is located on Shawmut Avenue in Boston’s South End. While billed as an enoteca, (and it does have an extensive wine list) the real reason to visit Coppa is the food. The menu is varied, running from small bar snacks, cheese and charcuterie, to wood fired pizzas, pasta and larger plates.
In the interest of trying as many items as we possibly could, we mainly stuck to the Stuzzichini menu, consisting of small Italian bar snacks. Like many restaurants serving Tapas or small plates, each dish arrives when ready, and sharing is encouraged.
First up was the Pigs Ear Terrine, served with a dollop of yuzu aioli. The dark brown of the terrine was broken up by the lightly colored strips of pig’s ear, and topped with chopped chives, what we assumed to be yuzu zest (though it could have been lemon) and crispy bits of fried garlic. Beautifully piggy without being gamey, the jellied part had a deep and complex flavor that evoked thoughts of Asian markets, and literally melted in the mouth. The slices of ear were surprisingly tender, providing just the right amount of texture without being chewy. The light, creamy acidity of the aioli balanced the darker, unctuous porcine flavors perfectly. The terrine was finished with a sprinkle of salt, just enough to bring the ingredients into focus.
The Ostriche consisted of two oysters escabeche (marinated in an acidic mixture) with a rhubarb verjus and topped with chives and mustard seeds. The flavor starts out sweet and citrusy, but finishes with a welcome tartness. The slight bit of heat provided by the mustard was a nice touch.
Coppa’s beer list isn’t what one would call extensive, but there is a little something for everyone, including some canned microbrews like Butternuts and 21st Amendment.
We were intrigued by the Panino di Riccio di Mare, mostly because we had never seen uni pared with salami, let alone in a sandwich. After biting through the crusty exterior, the mustard flavor comes through first, followed by the earthy, salty salami. The uni was extremely creamy, with a mild ocean flavor that added an interesting element to the panino. A little bit of lemon provided a welcome hit of acidity to balance the richness of the salami and uni. If you want to trick someone into liking sea urchin roe (which are actually gonads), feed them one these, just tell them it’s a fancy grilled cheese.
The special that day was Calves Brain Ravioli, served with a sage brown-butter sauce. The house made ravioli were filled with a mixture of ricotta cheese and delicate calves brain. The filling was rich and creamy, with an elusive flavor that we couldn’t quite pin down, but almost reminded us of crab. Topped with salty parmigiano cheese and crispy fried shallots, the dish had a remarkable range of flavors and textures that quickly let to a clean plate.
Served with crostini and rhubarb mostarda, Coppa’s Fegato, or chicken liver mousse just might be the best we’ve ever had. The pate conveyed the flavor of liver in a sweet and salty way, without any of the gamey overtones usually associated with it. The tartness of the mostarda cut through the lush paté, bringing a fresh brightness to the dish. Masterly seasoned with a drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkle of salt, and chopped chives (notice a pattern?) this is chicken liver pate done right.
In the past few years, we’ve become big fans of pork tails, so we couldn’t resist ordering the Coda di Maiale, wood-oven roasted pig’s tail with mostarda glaze. The tails featured a crispy skin that gave way to stick-your-teeth-together fatty and tender meat that only properly cooked pork can provide. Redolent with smoke, they were covered with a colorful mostarda made from grapefruit, apples, oranges and cranberries that played against the robust taste of the pork. If you enjoy rendered fat, collagen, and all the goodness that comes from the more flavorful cuts of meat, you owe it to yourself to try these pig’s tails.
Accompanied by a plum mostarda, the Foie e Prugna consisted of two slices of foie gras terrine atop a crostini. The terrine had a very smooth consistency and a rich, buttery taste accented by the sweetness of the plums. Made with big chunks of plum, the mostarda had a jelly-like sweetness and a decent amount of pungent mustard.
The wood-oven roasted Meatballs al Forno looked and smelled amazing. Each meatball is draped with a paper-thin slice of almost transparent lardo. The tomato gravy wasn’t too sweet and had a big fresh basil flavor. The meatballs were juicy and tender, and just enough wood smoke to keep things interesting. They had a subtle spicy heat, and a touch of natural sweetness (carrots perhaps), but neither flavor overwhelmed. Coppa’s meatballs are the meatballs you wish your grandmother made.
Coppa has generated a lot of hype in past couple years, and judging by our visit it’s well deserved. The dining room has a warm, unpretentious, neighborhood feel with lots of dark wood and exposed brick. It is on the small side; so long waits during prime hours are common, but we had no trouble finding a table for lunch. During the warmer, months, they break out the blue furniture and provide an additional 24 seats on their brick patio. We can’t wait to return and start working our way through the menu.
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Editor’s note ~ At Hungry Native, our restaurant reviews are by no means comprehensive, we may have visited a particular place many times, or perhaps only once. For the most part, we focus on specific dishes. We try to judge restaurants for what they are, rather than compare them directly. No review should be taken as a blanket endorsement of an establishment but rather a guide to what we found especially good or interesting.
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