On April Fool’s Day there was always some kid who loosened the top of the salt shaker and returned it to the table. Watching with restrained glee, the kid would then see unsuspecting diners pour salt onto their food. That behavior still continues in some restaurant kitchens.
Leaving aside, however, the highly salted food at Coppa, in Boston’s South End, what else can be said about the restaurant?
For one thing, it’s amazingly overpriced. Little bowls, each one the size of a softball that’s been cut in half, held cauliflower, broccoli rape, and burrata: At $7-$8 each, this was flat out ridiculous. The burrata, which had no flavor, was a tablespoon. (Just so you know: A full burrata, retail, costs between $8-$12, unless you’re buying one at Formaggio where you have to pay with your first born child, but that includes the fatuous song and dance by the clerks.) The costs at Coppa were easily twice the price of comparable contorni elsewhere. Anywhere elsewhere.
Leaving aside the sheer hodgepodge of a menu that has pizza, pasta, and large plates of protein, $13-$16 for a 1/2 portions of pasta? $14-$16 for eight inch around pizzas for one?
Do the math: A couple goes out, gets two pizzas, two contorni, and four glasses of wine: $97, including tax, wine, and tip. You have got to be kidding.
Back to the hodgepodge: With Italian food, it’s hard enough to get pasta right (Prizes to chefs Carmellini, Batali, and White), hard enough to get pizza right (Lombardi’s, Grimaldi’s, Pepe’s, Galleria Umberto), and hard enough to get protein right (Prizes to Chefs Pasternack, Batali, Carmellini), so what chef thinks he can do all three–pasta, pizza, protein–right? That’s hubris, folks, and it just doesn’t succeed.
If the food was good, if it hadn’t been heavily salted, if it didn’t all the taste the same, the value wouldn’t be an issue.
So why is Coppa still around? This was my second visit, and I doubt I’ll be back. I think it’s around for three reasons:
1. The lighting is really nice and the service is pleasant.
2. There is buzz because the chef-owner has good P.R.
3. There is no competition. Think about it: Where else can you get decent Italian food in town?
But that’s really besides the point because this isn’t Italian food. This is Salty Food.