What a difference two years makes. Ken Oringer’s last big opening was KO Prime in May, 2007. Back then, a hotel steakhouse with a menu full of foie gras and Kobe seemed like a safe bet. Now, of course, it’s another story. So for his sixth Boston restaurant, Oringer is partnering with a known commodity: Toro chef Jamie Bissonnette. In September, they’ll open Coppa, a sort of enoteca, in the former home of the Dish in the South End.
In contrast to the more formal atmospheres of restaurants like Clio and Uni, Bissonnette and Oringer envision Coppa as a natural part of the neighborhood, the kind of place where, as Bissonnette told us, “you don’t feel like you need to get dressed up or wait for a special occasion.” Coppa is designed to be sociable: the dishes are meant for sharing, and a long communal table has replaced the booths on risers that demarcated the Dish. In warmer weather, an outdoor patio will seat 24. Coppa will take reservations for about a third of the restaurant, excluding the bar and patio.
As for the food, think a more market-driven Italian version of Toro. The meat offerings will revolve around the kill cycle of South Dartmouth’s Around the Bend Farm, which is supplying Coppa with pigs, lambs, and goats. Two pigs have already been delivered to ensure that housemade prosciutto, mortadella, and salami is ready for the opening. Rustic Italian comfort food will dominate the menu — think trippa alla Romana and spinach lasagna Bolognese. Bissonnette is especially excited for the housemade cavatelli with chicken sausage ragu and long-cooked broccoli. “We’ve made it a couple of times and done some photo shoots and some sample plates and it’s just so fucking tasty,” he endorses. “I can’t wait to cook it and eat it on a regular basis.” Bissonnette and Oringer will make use of the wood-burning oven by serving a Sicilian Fisherman’s pizza, topped with tomatoes, Parmesan, mozzarella, cherry peppers, and fried calamari.
The duo collaborated so intensely on the menu that they can’t remember who came up with what. “It’s hard to say whose dish is whose,” says Bissonnette. “He’ll say, ‘Hey, I want to make trophie pasta and we should so some sort of a pesto’ and I’ll say ‘Yeah, pesto and potatoes are traditional, so let’s do some fingerling potatoes.’ ‘Yeah, but let’s not use Parmesan. Let’s use a different cheese.’ And the next thing you know, we’re cooking and we’re eating and tasting and I’ll add a little chili flake and he’ll add a little lemon zest and I don’t know whose dish it is.”
Copppa is Bissonette’s second kitchen to manage — he bought a scooter to quicken his commute on the advice of Sel De La Terre’s Louis DiBiccari. He’ll also rely on his staff to keep Toro running while he gets Coppa going. “My sous-chef [at Toro], Mike [Smith], is awesome and he’s got the restaurant running really efficiently, so if I have to be gone three months straight at Coppa and just come in every day to check on him, I know he’s going to do the right thing and make the same decisions I would have made if I was here,” he says.
The sous-chef at Coppa is Chris Gould of Clio. The wine and beverage program is run by Bissonnette’s wife, Courtney, and will focus largely on wines. Prices are $6 to $11 by the glass and $30 to $50 by the bottle. Though Coppa has no liquor license, it will serve a selection of artisanal local beers and cordial-based cocktails.
Coppa will open for dinner on September 15 at 253 Shawmut Ave. in the South End.
What else is opening in the coming months? Check out Grub Street’s Fall Preview and mark your calendar.