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Casual Coppa

This restaurant impresses with simple, harmonious flavors — and its refusal to over-impress.

It can be easy to become jaded in a restaurant town like Houston, where dining out is often less of a pastime and more of a competitive sport. Chefs often take similar approaches to their food, scrambling to incorporate the next big ingredient or feature the next heretofore unknown cut of meat. It can be exhausting as often as it can be exhilarating.

But at Coppa, it's tough to be jaded — even when you eat out every night of the week. The welcome is always warm here, a tribute to the servers and staff that seem to stay on with Clark and Cooper from place to place, and have affectionately bestowed nicknames like Meatball and Cougar Bait. But part of the sentiment goes back to Key's food.

In our city, it's common to see Italian food aggrandized and steroidal, plated in portions large enough for a rugby team and swaggering under snowy mounds of grated Parmesan. At Coppa, there is a decidedly feminine touch to the food, whether Key intends it or not. The dishes are clearly born of a woman in their understated construction and simple, harmonious flavors. There's not a lot of braggadocio here, to borrow an Italian term. Just straightforward, well-cooked food. Chef Key impresses with her simple refusal to over-impress.

Fall in a bowl: the duck agnolotti.
Troy Fields
Fall in a bowl: the duck agnolotti.

Location Info

Map

Coppa Ristorante Italiano

5555 Washington
Houston, TX 77007

Category: Restaurant > Italian

Region: Heights

Details

Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays, 5 to 11 p.m. Saturdays, 5 to 9 p.m. Sundays.
Meatballs al forno: $12
Eggplant caponata: $9
Whipped mortadella: $11
Octopus carpaccio: $14
Burrata: $15
Pâté campagnola: $11
Spaghetti carbonara: $19
Lamb sausage pizza: $17


READ MORE
SLIDESHOW: Coppa: Come in from the Cold
BLOG POST: The Key to the Kitchen: Coppa's Female Executive Chef, Brandi Key, Is No Novelty Act


The fall-inspired pumpkin ravioli that was recently added to the menu is a good example of this: Where other restaurants might feel the need to gild the lily, the plump pouches need no other garnish aside from the dried cranberries, toasted pumpkin seeds and simple brown butter sauce. It's a delicious exercise in restraint. Ditto the agnolotti, the delicate pasta filled with savory roasted duck and finished off with a few dates, pine nuts and wonderfully crisped Brussels sprouts leaves. The bowl is an entire fall meal in and of itself, without ever having — as Emperor Joseph II would say — too many notes.

Even more impressive is the kitchen's decision to know which foods to make themselves, and which to outsource, such as the milky white burrata cheese. Only one restaurant in town — Capri, in Spring — makes a good burrata in-house. Coppa smartly ships its in from Puglia, then pairs the soft mound of cream-infused mozzarella with a pile of arugula topped with ruby red tomatoes, olive oil, salt and — true to its name — a few dark red, slick slices of coppa. It's a bittersweet reminder of Shepherd's cured meat heritage at Catalan, where coppa was one of his signature pork products, and a spirited proclamation that Coppa is here now — and intends to shine just as brightly as Catalan once did.

katharine.shilcutt@houstonpress.com

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4 comments
KathrynS
KathrynS

Disappointing lunch today. Flimsy paper soiled menu with prices that deserve better. Menu content seemed a bit odd and eclectic with ham and egg pizza, lamb sausage, etc.. Brown butcher paper over white table cloths didn't work for me. Service was average. Salad was good. Pizza crust bordered on being burnt. Dessert was dry and couldn't taste the purported amaretto. My "cast iron" stomach had a stomach ache. Cost apx $25 per person including tax and tip. Because of food quality wasn't a good value at any price. Won't be going back.

Eric Henao
Eric Henao

Going there TONIGHT! Can't wait!!!

Kelli
Kelli

Gotta try the lasagna, it's soooooooo good. In fact, I'm gonna have to get some this week.

brandius
brandius

I really, really like Brandi. I like her food, I like her personality, and I just like her.

You know what else I like? Coppa. It's just good. I like pretty much everything about it.

My favorite thing about it is that I end up eating things I would typically not order. I have so much faith in the food coming out of the kitchen, that I firmly believe I could enjoy anything they push out. The pumpkin ravioli, for example, is something I'd lean away from and now I have dirty pumpkin ravioli dreams about it.

I just want to make out with this review, Coppa, Brandi, that hilarious waiter whose name shows up as "Cougar Bait" on my receipt, the wine, and all the food ever.

 
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