On a quiet strip of Shawmut Avenue in the South End sits the intimate yet lively enoteca opened in 2009 by the duo of highly acclaimed Boston chefs; leader Ken Oringer and protégé Jamie Bissonnette. Bissonnette, known for his nose-to-tail cooking, his palate challenging dishes and his way with charcuterie, takes the reigns as executive chef displaying his prowess by way of Italian inspired small plates at Coppa. On Thursday evening, Elina, Meghan, Michelle, Bianca, Megan and myself were nestled comfortably at the table in front of the long narrow bar. The late evening sun show through the floor to ceiling windows in the background.Prefaced by a refreshing St Germain cocktail at The Franklin Cafe with an epilogue of Miller High Lifes at Delux, Coppa was the boisterous, feel good Thursday night experience highlighted by some really, really good food and wine. The cocktails are inventive, sparking serious intrigue as they maneuver seamlessly around a full liquor license utilizing cordial based ingredients along with fresh juices, vintage spirits and house made syrups and bitters. A Negroni Rosato ($9) combines Rosato vermouth, Aperol, Bols Genever and rhubard bitters for a well rounded Apertivi. It was refreshing with bright and sweet flavors and a wonderfully bitter finish. As we navigated the menu with our good spirited waitress there to guide us every step of the way, we placed our orders in multiple stages, feasting on Stuzzhicini (small italian bar snacks), salumi, offal, cold-antipasti, wood fired pizza and pastas. Wood roasted Meatballs Alforno ($6) are a blissful first bite, coated lightly in red sauce, draped with a strip of lard and sprinkled in parmesan cheese with just a hint of breadcrumb. Next, a Tonno Conserva ($7) presents cured tuna belly with anchovy, squash and parmesan on a slice of toast. It offered and interesting combination of ingredients with bold, unexpected flavors. The Crostini di Fegato ($6) follows in the same fashion, the chicken liver pate with mostarda was pungent and savory.
A Salumi platter ($10) offers the freshest daily selection of thinly sliced house cured meats. From Duck Prosciutto, Rabbit Porchetta, Prosciutto di Parma, Mortadella and more, the perfect slices offering an array of salty flavors and various textures are served on a whimsical pig shaped cutting board. House made pasta dishes include a remarkable Trophie con Pesto ($13) with pine nuts, piave and tender morsels of fingerling potatoes while a loose interpretation of Spaghetti alla Carbonara ($14) delights with smoked bacon, sea urchin and farm egg.Vegetables plates are rather lovely, as well. Seasoned with fresh herbs and tangy olive oil are the Funghi Marinati ($5). Then there was deliciously thick spears of Grilled asparagus ($7). (For some reason, I wasn't a huge fan of the just-barely poached egg, though.)The wine list is also worth mentioning, it offers boutique and artisianal wines from Italy. We first enjoyed a Refosco Bastianich Rosato ($28) and finished off the meal with a sparkling Faive Rose Brut ($30). The Salsiccia ($16) pizza is an absolute standout. While I was expecting to be awestruck by the non traditional offerings, without a doubt I would recommend ordering a pizza at Coppa. Tomato, spicy pork sausage, ricotta, and red onion is a well balanced blend of toppings; lighter on the sauce and generous on the ricotta, highlighted by the prevalent spice of the pork over a crispy wood grilled crust but an overall warm doughy pie. Simply amazing. I would also recommend trying at least one dish from the Offal menu.We tried the Coda de Maiale ($9) a wood oven roasted pigs tail with mostarda glaze. I found it to be exciting and versatile - crispy and salty reminiscent of bacon in one moment and a bite of tender fatty pork in the next. Two of the evenings specials showcased risk-taking combinations, the first a Burtatta and Black Cod Crudo. Almost an awkward pairing is sashimi style fish and the creamy buratta cheese, it seemed to work out okay, but not with flying colors. Same goes for the Chocolate Covered Foie Gras accented with a strawberry glaze. I'd be content if I never
ate chocolate covered foie gras again in life; but that's not to say I
didn't enjoy tasting it! I happily went back for a few more bites of
this wildly adventurous pair. We ended the meal with a gorgeous Formaggio Plate, proving, in the end, that simple dishes truly do shine here at Coppa. My favorites of the evening were the classic dishes done well - the meatballs, the pizza, the pesto pasta, the house cured meat and the cheese plate. If you're offal averse - pigs tails and perhaps chicken liver just aren't your thing, don't bypass this South End enotecca in favor of playing it safe. The menu is versatile and caters to all types of food lovers, even vegetarians as evidenced by a few of our plates. When you combine that with swift, friendly service in a lively energetic atmosphere, it makes for one outstanding neighborhood restaurant.