Many say that Boston is not actually a big city, but really a large town. This is never truer than when a widely-acclaimed new restaurant opens. Especially when it’s from Ken Oringer, of Clio, KO Prime, Toro and La Verdad fame and when the chef is Jamie Bissonette of Toro. Throughout the last year or so, hype has been growing exponentially for their newest restaurant, Coppa, a small enotoca in the South End. Coppa has gained critical acclaim, and fans are particularly excited about the restaurant’s “nose-to-tail” mindset and that all meats are cured on site. Housed in a cozy corner spot on a very neighborhood-y stretch of Shawmut Avenue, Coppa has been packing the house ever since it opened last December.
As a resident of the neighborhood, I walked by from time to time, shaking my head at the masses and retreating comfortably to local nearby favorites. “Typical hype,” I thought. “No big deal… Definitely not worth the multi-hours waits in overcrowded settings or on the frigid patio. Not for a rushed, cramped meal.” But I was wrong.
Last Friday night, after finally eating at Coppa, I was charmed. From the atmosphere to the service to the oh-so-amazing food, they got me. Instead of feeling rushed, the casually dressed and mannered waitress made us feel right at home. She explained that the menu was made up of small plates, and if we ordered all at once, we would be served as they were ready. She explained that we could slow things down by ordering in a more “course by course” fashion, which is exactly what we did.
We started with a crostini with ricotta and duck prosciutto, which we divided into tiny bites and tried to eat as slowly as possible to fully appreciate each flavor. Next, we moved on to the freshest tasting salad ever consisting of fennel and arugula, with red onions, fiddlehead tomme, and tossed with a lemony vinaigrette.
For dinner, we each had pasta, the calves brain ravioli in brown butter sauce and orecchiette with fennel sausage and broccoli raabe. The generously poured glasses of wine kept us happy and smiling as we savored each taste and carefully curated ingredient. Fantastic coffee closed out the meal and was the perfect ending to what was a nearly perfect meal.
Believe the hype. It was one of the best dining experiences I have had in years. I can’t wait to go back and try more of their menu. I woke up the next day thinking about all of the different tastes that I experienced at Coppa and started scheming about the recipes I could take from their menu. While I probably won’t be making calves brains ravioli anytime soon, I was able to throw together a really fresh salad that was inspired by Coppa.
Arugula, Fennel and Parmigiano Reggiano Salad
- 1 small fennel bulb, very thinly sliced (about 1/2 cup)
- 4 cups washed and dried arugula
- 1/2 cup (2 ounces) shaved fresh Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (use a vegetable peeler)
Quick-Pickled Red Onions:
- 1 small red onion, thinly sliced (or a few thin slices of a bigger onion- you know how much onion you can take!)
- ½ cup vinegar (white, apple cider or even red wine vinegar would work here)
- ¼ cup warm water
- 2 tsp sugar
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Thinly slice a red onion and stir together the warm water, the vinegar and the sugar. Place the onions in a shallow bowl and pour pickling liquid on top. Put aside while you make the rest of your dinner. The longer this sits, the sweeter and tangy-er the onions will be.
Wash and dry the arugula, place into a medium bowl. Add the thinly sliced fennel bulb. Using a vegetable peeler, shave bits of the parmigiano reggiano onto the salad. Remove the onions from the pickling liquid and dice. Add to the bowl.
In a separate small bowl or a glass measuring cup, mix together the lemon juice, sugar, salt and pepper. While whisking, slowly add the olive oil and mix until slightly emulsified. Toss the dressing with the salad just before serving. Enjoy!
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