Bryan and I have a tradition that we started years ago. We’ll take vacation from work on our birthdays and spend it together somewhere. Certain years, we’ll actually go on a trip (e.g., Paris, Sydney, or Tokyo), while other years we’ll just explore Boston together for the day.
It’s during these times that we finally get around to visiting some of those places that are typically hard to access. For example, this past year we finally visited James Beard Award winners Ken Oringer’s and Jamie Bissonette’s Spanish restaurant Toro on Bryan’s birthday. We showed up about 15 minutes before the restaurant opened so we could ensure a table without the crazy up to 2+ hour long waits.
For my birthday this past year, we stayed local (no trips since our Hawaii trip was coming up in a week!), and explored Boston for the day. This time, we decided to stop by Chef Oringer’s and Chef Bissonette’s other collaboration, an Italian enoteca called Coppa for lunch.
Coppa is located in Boston’s vibrant South End on a cute little corner surrounded by quaint brownstones and narrow tree-lined streets. The whole area is just charming, and there’s no question why this neighborhood is so popular (and thus so expensive!).
Step inside, and it’s equally charming and warm inside. The dining space is cozy and small, with exposed brick walls and a rustic feel.
We knew we had to get the salumi, or cured meat. After all, the restaurant’s called “Coppa”, an Italian cured meat made from pork shoulder or neck. Furthermore, our friends had visited the restaurant a week prior and had raved about the salumi selection, telling us we had to try it.
There are many different choices of salumi on the menu. On the day we went, there was Coppa, Mortadella, Lingua, Prosciutto di Parma, La Quercia Prosciutto, Beef Heart Pastrami, and Toscano.
You can get one plate for $10 or the sampler plate (5 different varieties) for $35. If you’re hankering for variety but don’t feel like eating an entire huge plate of cured meat, you can get half and half on a single $10 order. We ended up getting four half orders for $20.
One one plate we had Beef Heart Pastrami and Mortadella. Our server called the Mortadella an adult version of bologna. It was delicious.
We also ordered the Lingua (tongue, in front) and the Coppa (in back). Our favorite was the Lingua, which was not only beautifully soft and tender, but also had phenomenal flavor. I especially enjoyed the crunchy fried garlic, chives, and sea salt sprinkled over the top, which really made the dish shine.
The menu is divided into several sections, including Stuzzichini (small starters $5-$9), Salumi ($10 each), Formaggio (cheese, at $15 for 3 or $25 for 5), Antipasti ($8-$14), Piatti (plates, $11-$15), Pasta ($16-$27), and Pizza ($14-$18).
We started with a Panino di Riccio di Mare ($9) from the Stuzzichini section of the menu. This was a pressed sandwich made with sea urchin, roasted tongue, and pickled mustard seeds. It was well executed and pretty enjoyable.
From the Antipasti section of the menu, we ordered Forno a Legna Brussel Arrosto ($11), wood-oven roasted Brussels sprouts with sheep’s milk feta and fattoush tossed together in a sumac vinaigrette.
We also ordered Polpo e Broccoli ($14), a plate of braised octopus, broccoli rabe, olive oil potatoes, and Castelveltrano olives with fried lemon and a tahini sauce. The flavors were nice, though the texture of the octopus was not as good as what we’ve had at Juniper or Craigie on Main.
From the pasta section, we got Linguini Nero con Trippa ($16/$24), squid ink linguini with tomato-braised tripe, bottarga and garlic. The texture of the pasta was excellent, though the sauce was quite salty, right on the edge of comfort for me. Perhaps I would ask them to reduce the salt next time?
And then – lo and behold – guess who were BOTH at the restaurant that day during lunchtime? I was a bit shy, but Bryan encouraged me to say hi to them. Both Ken and Jamie were super gracious and were so nice to me, despite the fact that I think they were having some sort of business meeting with each other at the restaurant.
They warmly wished me a happy birthday and were kind enough to let me take a photo with them.
Thanks so much, chefs!
It was a memorable birthday, to say the least, and I had an enjoyable meal at Coppa. I still prefer my favorite Italian places in New York (or Italy, for that matter), but it’s definitely one of the best in Boston. My favorite was the salumi, especially the lingua. I would be tempted to order a whole portion of that the next time I return! I’d love to try some of the other pasta dishes. My friend says the Spaghetti Carbonara (which has smoked pancetta, sea urchin AND a farm egg) is out of this world, and many of the other pasta dishes look really interesting as well.
Hopefully I won’t have to wait until another birthday to return!
253 Shawmut Ave
Boston MA 02118