COPPA Ristorante Italiano, for me, started with a list of ingredients. A chef friend of mine and pseudo mentor, once told me that the best thing I could do for my career was to cook and eat in as many restaurants and cities that I could, promise to always be a student of cooking and not rush into heading my own kitchen until the time was right. She vowed that one day I would wake up and would know that I was ready and that my desire would overtake everything that I knew until the dream was fulfilled.
As was predicted, I did wake up one day and feel that I was ready, and only think about having my own kitchen, and truly believe that it was the right time. So what did I do that day? I wrote a list.
I started with the most natural thing for me: ingredients. I took out my favorite notebook and made a wish list of sorts; a list of all my favorite ingredients that I had to have in my kitchen. As the list grew, my ideas became a seed for a menu and a kitchen and a style of food that I did not yet know would be. The list was flooded with lemons and fennel and sumac and tomatoes and cheeses and octopus and sausages and herbs that you see on the COPPA menu today.
I now took my list full of things that I loved, and cross-referenced them with countries and what was indigenous to what and how they ate. I made lists of foods from Turkey and Italy and Spain and France and Morocco. I discovered that if a country touched the Mediterranean, it was a country that used and cherished the ingredients that were on my list. I read as many books and learned as much as I could about all of these countries. I became a student of their cuisine and culture. And then I waited…
When introduced to Grant and Charles, months after beginning my list, I knew from a handshake that this was going to be something special. The times that Grant and I discussed COPPA we were talking about the very same ingredients and recipes and dishes that were on my list. Conversations were full of garlic and mushrooms and eggplant and anchovies and chilies and arugula. I now had a huge task at hand. A new list had to be started; a list that would define what the food at COPPA would be.