photo credit: Natalie Schaefer
We can understand the appeal of cosplay. Kind of. Why wouldn’t you want to dress up and pretend to raid the Temple of Osiris for an afternoon? Well, lots of reasons, but it’s still more interesting than scrolling through your feed and binge-watching simultaneously. Restaurant cosplay, on the other hand, is almost never a good thing, and it happens frequently in mediocre Italian places that use Chianti bottles as candle holders and go heavy on the accordion music in an apparent attempt to recreate the spaghetti scene from Lady and the Tramp.
But Coppa doesn’t play dress up as Francis Ford Coppola’s salumi cellar. It just makes damn good Italian food in a simple space that only needs a couple of candles to feel special. For that, it’s one of our all-time favorite Italian restaurants in the city.
Hidden in a distant corner of the South End, the food here seems too good to come from a place that otherwise feels like your too-tired-to-cook-on-a Wednesday spot. If it were an actual restaurant in Italy—a little neighborhood joint you stumbled upon after your phone died and you couldn’t find that place Bourdain went to—you would never stop talking about it once you got home. Because even though it’s one of the most popular restaurants in the city and regularly has lines out the door, it somehow pulls off the trick of feeling like a secret that only the locals know about.
photo credit: Natalie Schaefer
Coppa is a type of cured meat, so it follows that this place has an extensive charcuterie selection. But you should go straight to the pastas. They’re homemade, they’re blended in such a way that the pasta and sauce are perfectly unified elements, and, unlike the stuff you get at the cosplay Italian joints, they’re relatively small and light (which is great, because you’re going to want to try them all).
The shared plates range from simple stuff that’s done really well (get the meatballs) to fancier stuff prepared with more surprising ingredients, like the foie gras with speck and saba, or the Island Creek Oysters with fennel, Thai basil oil, and whatever grains of paradise are. The pizzas, on the other hand, can be hit-or-miss, due to sometimes overly-ambitious combinations that don’t quite come together. But when they hit - like the white pizza with bone marrow, beef tongue, and chilies - they’re amongst the greatest pies in the city.
There’s nothing wrong with putting on the costume and playing dress-up every now and again, but eventually, the convention center is going to close and you’re going to go back to sitting on your couch, scrolling through Netflix for 45 minutes without deciding what to watch. You don’t have the life of a superhero. But at least you can console yourself with Coppa, a place where you can enjoy perfectly-cooked pasta without feeling like you walked through a turnstile on Hanover street.
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A raw oyster doesn’t need any dressing up to taste great, but if you’re going to put something on one, Thai basil, fennel, and grains of paradise turn out to be a pretty great option.
Applebee’s and TGI Fridays have completely ruined the word “stuffed” as a modifier for appetizers and entrees. Coppa’s stuffed calamari dish is leading the charge to take that word back.
Meatballs tend to be pretty simple, so chances are you haven’t been keeping a running list in your head of the very best ones you’ve ever had. Try the meatball at Coppa, though, and you’ll start making one.
Cavatelli Con Pollo
We don’t blame you if you normally don’t order the chicken and broccoli pasta, but this one actually might be the best one on the menu.
Tagliatelle Con Sugo
Opting for the meat sauce is almost always a good decision. It’s no different here at Coppa.
Carbonara Con Riccio Di Mare
Have you ever seen pasta with sea urchin on a menu? Now you have, and you’re going to keep looking for it.
A pizza with, among other things, smoked bone marrow and cow tongue. Those are a couple of badass ingredients, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see this pizza wearing a leather jacket and smoking in the parking lot one day. For now, we’re just happy it’s on the menu, because it’s awesome.
Nothing crazy here in this pizza with prosciutto and arugula, but when you’ve got a crust with an almost perfect balance of char and fluff, you don’t need to try too hard.