Coppi Ristorante – named after the cycling legend of the ’40s and ’50s Fausto Coppi –opened back in 1992, before iPhones (and even Blackberries) were invented, when white tablecloths were standard, and Bill Clinton was named President of the United States.
Despite rapidly changing times, carefully prepared, authentic Italian cuisine has remained steadfast at the bustling restaurant north of Lawrence for the last 25 years.
Take a look:
Back in the day
Alex Scotto found himself at Coppi’s door after a short stint of making gelato with his two sisters for a living. Meeting with then owner Fausto DiBerardino, he came to work at the new, but already successful, Italian restaurant right away. It was just a few years before they became business partners.
The fine dining establishment remained largely unchanged – why change a good thing? – for two decades, until the dining room became “stale and too formal,” Scotto says.
Room with a view
After 20 years, the restaurant underwent renovations to modernize the space. The result is a clean, spacious room fitted with white glass tables and contemporary fixtures. A subtle nod to all things cycling – lights made out of bicycle chains, bike frames pulled together into art pieces, for example – lend whimsy to the sophisticated room. Additional art comes way of bold photography of some of Europe’s most iconic cycling trails by Jared Gruber on one wall; on the other, a grouping of colourful vintage prints.
Designed in a way to accommodate various groups and events, tables can be moved with ease, and even lights can be lifted. Openness was key.
Having all this space between tables is a rarity in this cramped city of ours. What a luxury to be able to feel you’re the only table in a full dining room.
Classic Italian fare
Many elements, however, have stayed very much the same. Risottos (stirred in a massive wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano) and Pesce al Sale (salt encrusted steamed fish), both done tableside, are Coppi staples that have been on the menu forever, and aren’t likely to change anytime soon.
The restaurant is also famous for their White Truffle Menu released each fall, with guests coming from all over, as well as their fish baked in sea salt that started 20 years ago with red snapper (orate and spigola are now available as well).
Not keeping to any specific region in Italy, the menu features a lot of seafood, which is popular in the south. And since the focus here is fish and seafood, and it’s not a pizzeria, you won’t find any pizzas on the menu.
Eat as the Italians do, with a small pasta as your first course, followed by a main. It might just become your new favourite thing.
Speaking of new, exciting things are happening kitchen side – Chef Adriano Vitale is making all pastas in-house, braising and curing meats, as well as making sausages from scratch.
Working with a variety of importers, Chef Adriano is always on the lookout for a new ingredient to explore, like Bottarga (salted fish roe) and Périgord truffles.
Vino, vidi, vici
The extensive wine list includes roughly 120 labels, with 90 per cent from Italy and many from Piedmonte.
The well-to-do crowd opts for vinos from the list as well as the BYOB option, bringing in prized bottles from home. On a recent visit, two wines – one from the ’60s and another from the ’70s – were decanted on the table.
“Our focus is on the plate – seasonal choices, a more organic approach,” says Scotto. If tomatoes aren’t in season, you won’t see them with the mozzarella.
Coppi Ristorante’s dedication to serving quality, authentic fare – with signature dishes served tableside to boot – in a modern, spacious room in the city’s north end, brings the best of both old and new worlds together under one roof.
In other words, it’s simply a must.
Coppi Ristorante (3363 Yonge St.) is open for dinner Mondays to Saturdays from 5:30 to 9 pm and has seasonal weekend brunch.
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