Named after the legendary Italian cyclist Angelo Fausto Coppi (1919 – 1960), this is another success story by Sam Spain and Tony O’Neill, whose sister restaurants The Barking Dog, Il Pirata and Happy Angel are among the most popular in the city.
Tucked into Belfast’s trendiest restaurant quarter, right beside the MAC (Metropolitan Arts Centre), it may have plenty of competition but there’s always room for quality at the right price - especially when vibe is right, as it certainly is at Coppi - and no shortage of customers in the area.
The tone is industrial urban chic and, far from being just another Italian, it’s more an Italian take on the popular tapas concept, with the speciality being cicchetti - small dishes that are traditionally served in the bars of Venice and, like tapas, can just be a snack to enjoy with your drink or, in multiple orders, make up a casual meal.
They can be as simple as marinated olives or paprika spiced almonds, or proper little dishes such as smoked chicken with a little salad of endive, Gorgonzola and walnuts or feta fritters and truffled honey, and you order them in sets of three, four or five.
Larger size variations are offered as ‘Plates’, including a more substantial meat board of bresaola, Parma ham and chorizo with sweet tomatoes and sour dough bread, and they also have several unusual pizzette (mini pizza). These tasty bites all make ideal sharing dishes, perfect for a sociable get together - and for culture vultures in need of a quick bite when attending events at the MAC.
But it’s not all about nibbles at Coppi, you can also have a proper dinner with mains including freshly made pasta dish - try the deeply flavoured smoked chicken one that comes with leek, parmesan and (the magic ingredient) guanciale; Supreme Champion in the 2012 Great Taste Awards, this is a classic cured pork cheek product used in Italian cooking - and produced by Moyallon /Hannan Meats at Moira.
And Hannan Meats are also the suppliers of the salt aged beef that’s used for the steaks here, which tells you a great deal about the restaurant once you know how this carefully selected beef is aged in a special humidity controlled chamber kitted out with a wall of Himalayan salt to aid the dry-ageing process and intensify the flavour, you understand that any chef choosing to put it on the menu is interested in quality and flavour above all - and the parmesan and rosemary fries aren’t half bad either.
Gorgeous desserts too, including a luscious tiramisu, and an unusual cheese plate bringing together several culinary themes in the big flavours of Gorgonzola, Manchego and Brie with quince & sour dough bread.
Smart service, as would be expected from this talented team, and an interesting drinks menu too, including several local craft beers.
A great place to meet and eat.