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Post from jack | around
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When Catalan closed seemingly at the height of its success, questions flew. But Chef Chris Shepherd departed amicably to launch his soon-to-open Underbelly, and the restaurant owners brought in Chef Brandi Key to launch the space in an entirely different direction. Coppa Ristorante is a bit more casual than its predecessor, but the food is no less impressive. I stopped in with a party of two, and we left raving, eagerly planning our next visit.

Partial to Malbec, I asked our friendly waiter for a wine recommendation, thinking an Italian varietal might pair better with the meal. He assured us the Malbec would be a good choice, and regardless of what you might choose from the impressive list, all of the wine at Coppa is reasonably priced, with a much smaller mark up than you would find at other establishments, encouraging patrons to enjoy the fruits of Dionysian labor. We also placed some appetizer orders to start. I couldn’t pass up calamari if I tried, even if the fritto misto at Coppa weren’t so delicious. Some might call it a sickness, I’d prefer to call it a scientific barometer for comparing restaurants. But the fried platter doesn’t just consist of squid, here you’ve got jumbo shrimp, fennel, and herbs all crispy in a light batter. Judging purely on the perfectly cooked squid though, this is seeded high in my Houston calamari bracket. We also ordered off the “Bruschetta e Giare” list, which pairs the roasted bread with little jars of classic Italian accoutrements like tomato or tuna conserva, while we chose the eggplant caponata, featuring the nightshade cooked until soft, then tossed with a few other vegetables and seasonings. There were little piles of coarse salt and red pepper flakes served alongside, for sprinkling on top of what I called the rustic Italian chips and salsa. The meal was off to an epic start.

For the main course, we couldn’t pass up the fingerling potato pizza, obsessed of late with fresh arugula on pizza. To start, I was intrigued by the Caesar salad, with grilled Romaine lettuce and fresh white anchovy. In fact, it was the anchovy that lured me in, knowing that it would be fresh, unlike the nightmarish visions of canned or Domino’s specimens the word “anchovy” can sometimes call to mind. The lightly grilled Romaine added a nice smokiness, and the fresh, nigh on sweet, anchovies complimented the dressing superbly. The thin crust pizza, fired in the oven, had those delicious blackened spots that add almost a tanginess from the carbon. The thinly sliced fingerling potatoes became almost chips on top of the pizza, with the peppery arugula and nutty rapini adding a nuanced flavor profile that was put over the top by the truffled vinaigrette. The leftovers tantalizingly scented my car with a powerful aroma. Forget that “new car” air freshener – hang a truffle oil tree from your rearview.

In the end, four dishes and a bottle of wine between two people was less than $100, including tip. Casual, yet refined. Wait, is that the Hooters tagline? No, they’re tacky. In any event, Chef Brandi Key and the folks at Coppa Ristorante have planted a solid flag on the Washington corridor, and if my friends are tired of me suggesting Down House for brunch on the weekends, they’re certainly going to get tired of me suggesting Coppa for dinner. Or they would, if it didn’t so consistently measure up.


Post from jack | around
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