I had been wanting to go to Coppa since it opened on Shawmut Avenue in the South End, but was deterred by the NO RESERVATIONS policy. I had heard of people waiting for one or even two hours to eat there.
I had no idea it was open for lunch until a wise friend, a brainy editor and professor, suggested we meet there.
No wait, half empty.
The room is pleasant and reasonably dark. Service was efficient.
We both ordered pizzas.
My friend had the “Pepe Bianco” which was made up of white clams with bacon and vidalia onion.
I had the “Salsiccia” that was tomato, spicy pork sausage, ricotta, and red onion.
These were very good, individual portion pies. The Pepe Bianco cost $14. The Salsiccia cost $16.
With tax and tip, my pizza was $21. We had all the tap water we wanted. The price of our pizzas? Easily 100% more than most pies in Boston or NYC that feed two.
Were the pizzas at Coppa 100% better than the competition? No, of course not. Don’t be silly.
So why pay more? For one thing, the restaurant is part of the Ken Oringer empire. Oringer has exceptional hubris. His restaurants are French (Clio), Japanese (Uni), Mexican (La Verdad), Spanish (Toro), American (KO Prime), and now Italian (Coppa). You’re paying for a brand. Most chefs with empires stick to one cuisine and delve deep into it: Boulud with French, Batali with Italian, Emeril with Cajun, Puck with California-French, Vongerichten with Southeast Asian-Chinese-French medleys. What emerges, as a result of the deep focus, are original interpretations of the cuisines.
Oringer is the only empire-chef who believes he can cook the foods of many nations. But with an empire that purports to show the cuisines of six nations, you get a culinary school version of the food that lacks soul and depth. These restaurants are conceptual; they are more about the chef than the food. The food? Good, but not great.
Will I go back to Coppa? Absolutely. I’m curious about the rest of the menu. Delicious pizzas, sure, but no better than pies at half the price elsewhere.