Coppola's 2900 W. Cary St. Monday-Wednesday 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday 10 a.m.-4 p.m. (804) 359-NYNY
Over the last 20 years, restaurants have come and gone in Carytown. The recent demise of the granddaddy of the neighborhood, The Venice, makes the fragility of eatery success even more obvious. But, for all the transition, there's one culinary corner that's developed a loyal clientele that keeps it packed, particularly at lunchtime.
Coppola's typifies the iconic Italian deli so often found in more sophisticated cities (yes, there are a few) like New York and Chicago. It's the kind of place where your grandmother might insist she buy mozzarella by the pound no matter what the mega- modern grocery store has. There are chairs and two-tops on the sidewalk, a corner door and, inside, a deli case full of good stuff.
One of the great things about Coppola's is the number of seating choices. If it's a clear day and you get there early, order your lunch inside and snag a sidewalk table where you can watch the whirl of Carytown, greet friends, comment on urban costumes and check out the local shopperazzi. If the weather's inclement or you want air conditioning but you still want a view, grab a table in the front of the restaurant. For those desiring privacy, tables in the back offer refuge for those who couldn't care less about seeing and being seen.
On a recent late morning, a friend and I purposefully arrived early at Coppola's and managed to successfully beat the lunch rush. Sidling up to the deli case, we gazed down through the glass at all kinds of delicious-looking cheeses, meats and prepared pasta salads. Need marinated artichoke hearts? Red pepper hulls? Sausage? Ham? Something called a "Steak Bomb"?
Three kitchen people were bustling around behind the case, but one made time to take our order, and another took our money and fixed us two drinks. We settled into a corner table in the back where both of us could enjoy the old wooden built-in bench. Lazy fans circled overhead and mirrors reflected the other clientele. Within five minutes, we were served our sandwiches.
My friend, a vegetarian, absolutely adored hers. A freshly-baked sub roll was packed full of mozzarella, sun-dried tomatoes, lettuce, red pepper hulls, olive oil, sweet basil and tomatoes. All the ingredients were fresh and tasty, and, by the time she was finished, only a small shred of lettuce remained on her plate. I had the honey turkey sandwich I must admit that the 96 percent fat-free note on the sign advertising it caught my eye. Fat-free should always be that delightful! Thin, tender slices of honey roasted turkey breast were layered on a freshly baked French roll along with grilled onions, sweet and hot peppers, Swiss cheese, lettuce and tomatoes. A good dollop of Dijon mustard gave the combination a wonderful flavor. Both sandwiches ($5.50 each) were served with a pickle wedge.
For dessert we shared a slice of cheesecake "direct from New York," according to the sign on the case. I believe it. The slice ($2.79) was thick and creamy, not crumbly and not some skinny little thing that's spent way too many nights in the big fridge out back.
Though I could easily order up the honey turkey again there's lots more at Coppola's to tempt me. Cheese tortellini, Lillie's potato salad, the "Industrial," a traditional Italian hero, etc. Plus, near the deli case, there are bags of chips, packages of cookies, and a cold case of Stewart's orange, root beer and key lime drinks. For dinner, you can have spaghetti with aioli, marinara, parmigiana, ragout, meatballs or sausage, ranging from $6 to $8. The menu is not huge, but apparently what they do here they do right. I'll definitely put Coppola's on my Carytown lunchtime
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