Coppa’s beef heart, bone marrow, lovage, and grated horseradish pizza — and you can’t get anything quite like it here.
News on Eater that the celebrated Boston chefs Jamie Bissonnette and Ken Oringer had their hearts set on opening a branch of Toro – their Catalan tapas bar – in Chelsea, in the same building that houses Del Posto and Colicchio & Sons, led me to seek out one of their restaurants in Beantown to see if these guys can cook. The short answer is, they can. And their cooking is wild-ass enough that it’s likely to go over big in New York.
Not your mama’s three-bean salad
A companion and I approached Coppa, described as an “enoteca,” in the early evening this last Friday, and had no trouble scoring a table in the restaurant’s outdoor seating area. The place is located in the South End, a formerly hardscrabble neighborhood that looks a little like the gentrifying parts of Bed-Stuy, with handsome red-brick houses, and twee shops. Right across the street in one direction was what looked like a dog bakery; in the other was a house still occupied by squatters. It was a beautiful summer evening with a light breeze off the Charles River as we sat down and began gorging ourselves.
The menu is decidedly Italian, but with a few Asian flourishes thrown in. Most of what we ate was fantastic.
We began with a lovely multi-bean salad flavored with fronds of fennel and mint leaves in a mild vinaigrette. If the beans hadn’t been sourced from Cesare Casella’s Republic of Beans, they sure tasted like it. Colorful radishes enlivened the assemblage, and nearly every table in the outdoor seating area – right on the cobbled sidewalk – seemed to be enjoying a bowl.
The plate of hand-sliced coppa
The perfect pig-ear terrine with chopped chives and crunchies, in a yuzu aioli
Next came a plate of coppa neck-meat ham, obviously having been sliced by hand. None of the charcuterie was house made. Then we were blown away by a pig-ear terrine, and we slowly began to realize that these talented chefs are like a pair of love-child twins sired by Mario Batali and Fergus Henderson. We were washing the meal down, btw, with a bottle of prosecco, which was perfect on a long summer evening.
A toast with a generous amount of salt cod arrived next. I liked it, but wished it had some potatoes mixed in to mellow the strong salty and fishy flavors, as the French do it. A bubbling red casserole of tripe and beef tongue reminded us of tripe Florentine, except for big gobs of molten cheese, and peregrine chick peas. Cheese and tripe together for the first time? It worked! And left us mopping the bowl.
Orecchiette and sausage, an Apulia standard, was next. It had been boldly enlivened with some green beans and corn kernels – which added nothing, tastewise, but were pleasant nonetheless. Finally, an organ meat tour-de-force and highlight of the meal arrived – a pizza topped with bone marrow cubes and slices of roast beef heart, with a touch of horseradish to give it extra oomph!
Really, it was one of the best meals I’ve had all summer, and it left me wishing a Coppa were coming here.
The splendid tripe casserole
Salt cod crostino
Orecchiette with pork sausage and vegetables
Smiles of a summer night (click on image to enlarge)
253 Shawmut Avenue
South End, Boston