Best Of 2016: Coppi’s Organic Restaurant – Dining With il Campionissimo
Best of 2016: The love of the negroni of ‘The Pez’ is well known and he shares that love with Chuck Peña. One of Chuck’s favorite places for a meal and a negroni in Washington is the organic restaurant Coppi; the food, drinks and atmosphere are great… and there’s that great cycling connection.
If your travels bring you to Washington, DC, a must-try restaurant is Coppi’s Organic on Connecticut Avenue in the Cleveland Park neighborhood, right next to the National Zoo. As the name suggests, the menu comes from organic farmers and food cooperatives. And if you are a cyclist, how could you not to eat in a restaurant named after Fausto Coppi?
As if PEZ readers needed a reminder, he Campionissimo won the Giro d’Italia five times (1940, 1947, 1949, 1952, 1953), the Tour de France twice (1949 and 1952 – and he was the first rider to win both the Giro and the Tour the same year), the World Championship in 1953, the Giro di Lombardia five times (1946-1949 and 1954), Milan-SanRemo three times (1946, 1948 and 1949) and Paris-Roubaix (1950). In addition, Coppi set the hour record (45.798 km / h) in 1942.
A little history on the restaurant. Before it was Coppi’s Organic it was just Coppi’s and on U Street in what was then, in the early 90s, a neighborhood in revival that was a bit bohemian and a bit hip (it’s now fully hipster hipster. urban). The original owners were Pierre Mattia and his wife, Elizabeth Bright, who was also the chef. It would be cool to be able to say that Pierre was a relative of Fausto Coppi unfortunately not. But Pierre was a former cyclist and, like me, a big fan and admirer of Coppi. Born in Paris, Pierre actually grew up in the Liguria region of Italy, where Coppi often trained. Coincidentally, Pierre was born in 1946. The year of Coppi’s first victory at Milan-SanRemo, which he won by a huge 14-minute margin and, according to local legend, stopped for coffee. at Caffe Liguri Pasticceria (now Caffe Pastecceria Piccardo) in Imperia about 13 kilometers before the climb to Cipressa.
Our first visit to Coppi was for the name, but we kept going back for the food. The brick oven pizzas (some traditional, some inventive, not all Domino’s) were just amazing. Coppi’s has not only become a place where we have eaten, but also the sponsor of a team that I created: Unione Sportiva Coppi’s. Although his racing days are behind him, Pierre rode with the team and gave some wise old-fashioned training tips such as “Pedal faster”. In the early 2000s, Pierre and Elizabeth added the nickname “organic”.
The original Unione Sportiva Coppi bike team in the original Coppi’s on U Street
Eventually Peter and Elizabeth decided to return to Italy and the restaurant was taken over by brother and sister Carlos and Nori Amaya. Carlos was actually a cook at Coppi and learned under Elizabeth Bright’s tutelage. Tragically, Nori was killed in November 2009 (her case is still unresolved). And in July 2012, Coppi’s Organic was one of many restaurants on the U Street corridor in the Cardozo neighborhood forced to close due to redevelopment that too often comes at the cost of urban gentrification.
Fortunately, after a 2 year hiatus, Coppi’s Organic was born again in the Cleveland Park neighborhood in November 2014. My wife, daughter and I have been there several times since and have introduced many friends – cyclists and non-cyclists alike. – at Coppi’s Organic culinary delights.
The interior of the new Coppi’s Organic is both different and identical to that of the original Coppi’s. What’s different is that the seats are a bit more open and the front windows (which can be opened in good weather) let in a lot of natural light compared to the U Street restaurant, which had a higher ceiling, but was overall darker.
What is the same are the pew benches used for the cabin seats. And the pictures on the walls – more than two hundred. Naturally, Coppi proliferates. And the theme is definitely Italian. But the images are very varied: Bartali, Anquetil, Poulidor, Merckx, De Vlaeminck, Major Taylor – to name a few. All in vintage black and white. Some are iconic cycling photos (Coppi passing a bottle of water to Bartali) while others are just nostalgic. You are surrounded by a bygone era of cycling. Some would say its golden age.
You will also find swimsuits on the walls. Like the photos, they are from another era. But another more modern one is my original Unione Sportiva Coppi team jersey signed by none other than Greg Lemond.
Yes, it’s a wool jersey
No, it’s not a wool jersey
One thing that the original Coppi misses are vintage bikes, as there is simply no room in the new space. Now, you can’t have it all.
But you don’t go to a restaurant just to look at pictures on the walls. You will eat. And the food from Coppi’s Organic – inspired by Fausto’s hometown of northern Italy’s Ligurian Riviera – won’t disappoint. You can whet your appetite with antipasti that include a spinach salad with Italian bacon and portobello mushrooms; smoked salmon with mozzarella, prosciutto, salami and capiccollo; our favorite squid, very lightly breaded (Cajun cornmeal, actually); and – if you want to try something you won’t find in many other restaurants – octopus and squid with red potatoes.
The original Coppi’s built its reputation on unusual pizzas and the brick oven – a new one in the tricolors of the Italian flag still produces them. There are more than a dozen of them and my favorites are always on the menu: Soppresseta (salami, ricotta, mozzarella, mushroom, onion, mint), Siracusa (spicy sausage, feta, peppers, onion), Saraceno (lamb sausage , mozzarella, sun-dried tomato, mint), Prosciutto e Funghi (prosciutto and mushroom), Pancetta (Italian bacon, mushroom, onion, mozzarella), Genovese (shrimp, mozzarella pesto, pine nuts) and Merguez (lamb sausage, feta, ricotta , cucumber, onion).
Everything is baked in a brick oven
Are you still hungry?
If you’re thirsty, the wine list is fairly extensive, and you don’t have to break the bank to enjoy a good bottle of wine (especially Tuesday night, which is a half-price wine night). Our usual host, Tom Bindley, can make a recommendation if you can’t decide for yourself. And, of course, all kinds of cocktails are available at the bar.
Has anyone ordered a drink?
If it’s PEZ, it must be Negroni
Coppi’s organic host, Tom Bindley; our PEZ man in the United States, Chuck; and the owner and chef of Coppi’s Organic, Carlos Amaya
If you want pasta instead of pizza, some of your choices include mushroom ravioli, eggplant gnocchi, a more traditional beef bolognese, and scallop and shrimp fettuccine. But my favorite is the lasagna made with strip loin and a béchamel sauce. If you’re inclined to a “normal” starter, there’s the rack of New Zealand lamb chops, Ecuadorian mahi mahi with cayenne citrus sauce and fennel mascarpone, and grilled to order. bistecca. And there is always some sort of special that is sure to be inventive and delicious. Whatever you decide to eat, it will be a meal you savor and remember.
Bistecca alla Grigllia
And it wouldn’t be a dinner without dessert or dolci. The problem is to choose between the hazelnut chocolate calzone, the tiramisu and the sabayon. It’s like asking someone which of their children they love the most.
Calzone Di Nutella
If you’re not going to Coppi’s Organic for dinner, go for the weekend brunch. We were actually their very first customers for brunch when they started doing it this year – and whether you go for dinner or brunch, the staff at Coppi’s Organic will be welcoming, friendly and attentive. They have a menu designed by brunch chef Mark Seidler to suit everyone’s dietary preferences. How about a Calcutta-inspired vegan chickpea flour omelet with spinach, onions and peppers? Or vegetarian huevos rancheros made with Cuban black beans? Our daughter loves groats and there are two to choose from: shrimp oatmeal, andouille sausage, ham and egg or bacon oatmeal, maple syrup and egg. If you’re a really hungry carnivore, try the Chicago Short Rib Hash or the Tijuana Trucker’s Breakfast. For something still traditional but a little out of the ordinary, the cod omelet is a tasty treat. There are also blueberry pancakes which are anything but ordinary. And it wouldn’t be a brunch without Bottomless Mimosas or Bellinis!
Chicago Short Rib Hash
Soft pancakes with Otilia blueberries
You can never have too many Mimosas
The only thing better than riding is riding for brunch at Coppi’s Organic with my former Coppi teammate Seth Turner
Washington, DC is probably not at the top of your list of cycling destinations – although DC is a good city for cycling by American standards, you would never know you’re in the city when you ride Rock Creek Park, and there are many beautiful horseback riding tours nearby in Virginia and Maryland. But Coppi’s Organic should be on your list to soak up a bit of cycling history. There’s no TV or wi-fi, so while you enjoy the food and drink you’ll have to engage in the fine (and somewhat lost) art of conversation about he Campionissimo and the other great cyclists who will be your dining companions. Enjoy your lunch !
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Pez contributor Chuck Peña is a former weekend warrior racer who now rides for fun but occasionally manages to prove Fausto Coppi’s adage true: age and betrayal will triumph over youth and skill. He lives in Arlington, Virginia with his wife, Karen (who works for Revolution Cycles), his daughter, Marin (an aspiring junior golfer who can beat him, but not all the time … yet), and their dogs. , Cooper and Roxy. You can follow him on Twitter @gofastchuck