Does anybody remember my story about trying to get a job at I Coppi, my all-time favorite Italian restaurant? Where I was interrogation-scorched and left to scrabble home, marinating in my own humiliation?
Well, I’ve come a long way since then. I think. I hope you do too. I mean, I not only know what gnocchi is now—I can make it!
I used to go to I Coppi (pronounced "Ee KOPE-ee")as often as my budget would allow me; there was even a time when J and I went almost every other weekend for brunch, because their food is so outstanding and was miraculously in our price range. They had an entrée-coffee-cocktail deal for $8.50—a real steal for homemade pastas, fabulously fresh ingredients, and innovative Italian cooking. The family-owned trattoria was primarily built by Lorella Innocenti and her husband John Brennan; Lorella’s mother was invited from Tuscany to design the seasonal menu of family recipes, and Lorella’s sister Maristella (the infamous inquisitor and extraordinary culinary artist) came to co-manage the restaurant and subsequently became head chef. She’s there overseeing, cooking, hosting and even serving every night. They have an impeccable wine list boasting a select variety of Super Tuscans. Since my days as a regular, they’ve upped the brunch price (and the menu prices in general—a completely merited increase, to their credit), so while it’s still an all-time favorite, we’re not such frequent customers…
Which is why when grown-ups come to town to celebrate their kids’ graduation by spending a little money, I Coppi is one of the first places we recommend.
In honor of Glod’s graduation and final days as a New York resident (see other mentions of the illustrious Glod at Olive Oil Tasting), I Coppi was our destination, via the generosity of his mom. Seeking an early dinner (Glod had capped-and-gowned his way through lunchtime), we came knocking around 4:30—whereupon Maristella looked at her watch, looked at us as though slightly insane, and said, “It’s early! Twenty minutes. Take a walk around the block.” So that is what we did.
Twenty minutes later, we followed our noses back around the block, tracking the wafts of home-baked bread. We were welcomed and promptly seated in I Coppi’s Eden-like garden; the covered area with vines in bloom opened up to a little outdoor plot with azaleas and a black cat roaming about. Verdant potted plants adorned each table, alongside an elegant bottle of olive oil. We began with Fett’unta con olive—grilled triangles of that home-baked Tuscan bread soaked in garlic, olive oil and sea salt, served with a mound of zesty black olives—and that wonderful Italian staple, fresh mozzarella, tomatoes and basil. I’ve never had mozzarella quite like this, though—it was was slightly sweet and had a spreadable, clotted-cream-type texture.
All of our entrees were excellent, but of particular note was I Coppi’s signature dish, Gnocchi all' arancia e granchio: homemade potato gnocchi with crabmeat in an orange-gin sauce. I either have this dish or convince someone else to have it (so that I can get the fusilli with pine nut-dandelion pesto) every time I come. It’s a wonderful sweet-savory combination, with the sweet orange-gin flavor agreeably offsetting the crabmeat. Their handmade gnocchi (a sight better than mine!) is always perfectly prepared and very complimentary to the creamy sauce.
We finished by sharing a generous slice of orange-flavored olive oil cake. I’ve never had olive oil cake before, but I can’t wait to try and make it myself! The cake was rich and buttery (can I say ‘buttery,’ it being an oil cake?), with a creamy hint of orange through the middle, and served with a dollop of vanilla ice cream.
Another impeccable, authentic Tuscan dining experience at I Coppi came to a close with a toast to Glod and his upcoming tenure in law school. Thank you, Teresa (aka Glod’s mom), for dinner…and thank you, Glod, for your care and friendship. You’ll be missed in NYC!
(J, me, and Glod on my roof!)
432 East 9th Street
New York, NY 10009