Octopus Carpaccio at Coppa Ristorante Italiano

Catalan was one of my favorite restaurants, and when it was announced that it would be closing to reinvent itself as Coppa Ristorante Italiano I was a little wary. True, Italian is not exactly my favorite food but after readingMai Pham's entry on the Ham & Eggs pizza at Coppa I thought I'd give it a try -- they had me at quail eggs.

Knowing right off the bat that we would be ordering the pizza to share, my dining companions and I perused the short menu. Among the heavy Italian dishes such as pasta carbonara, lasagna and meatballs, there were a few light items that stood out, specifically the Octopus Carpaccio ($14). The menu description of the carpaccio served with fingerling potatoes, crushed olives and mizuna is definitely reminiscent of one of my favorite dishes at Brasserie 19 -- the grilled octopus appetizer. Also served alongside fingerling potatoes, that is a well-executed dish ,with all the flavors working amazingly together. I was excited to see how this version would stack up.

The dish did not disappoint. The octopus was very thinly sliced, and served with a very delicate vinaigrette that didn't overwhelm the sweetness of the octopus. The small salad that accompanied the dish was perfection -- the fingerling potatoes were al dente and served as a good textural balance to the dish. The mizuna was, in my opinion, a better choice than arugula, because while still slightly pungent and peppery, it wasn't bitter enough to overpower the other flavors. The pickled red jalapenos and the crushed green olives added zest and tang to the dish.

The only complaint is that there wasn't enough of it, but that is my complaint with most things that I really enjoy. Still, at $14, which is the same price as the good-size portion of the grilled octopus at Brasserie 19, it was a little scarce.

Overall, my first experience at Coppa was a good one. The place was packed that Saturday evening, and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves, with most tables were sharing large entrees or pizzas.

Maybe the folks at Coppa had even read our readers' responses to Mai's entry, about the fact that there should be one egg to every slice on that Ham and Eggs pizza, or maybe I was just lucky, because each slice was topped with a lovely quail egg.

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Minh T Truong