Com­ing back for sec­ondi

The Courier-Mail - QWeekend - - RESTAURANT - LIZZIE LOEL

As the ca­su­al­i­sa­tion of fine dining con­tin­ues, smaller menus with an em­pha­sis on in-sea­son and lo­cally grown/ pro­duced in­gre­di­ents should be the happy by-prod­ucts. Ex­tend this premise to the wine, beer and spirit lists, along with the decor as well as the over­all theme of the place, and you’ll have sus­tain­able and au­then­tic eat­ing houses that of­fer broad ap­peal across many de­mo­graph­ics. Right? With a few no­table ex­cep­tions, it’s sur­pris­ing how few man­age to de­liver on this prom­ise. Coppa Spuntino, in the heart of Bris­bane CBD, is one.

From the meat­balls to the Fer­net-Bran­calaced af­fogato, it’s de­cid­edly Ital­ian. This is the third venue for Tom Sanceau and Bon­nie Shearston (who also own Public in the city and Red Hook around the cor­ner), part of the team that opened the much­lauded Can­vas in in­ner-east Wool­loongabba in 2010. Here, you can sit un­der the glow of con­tem­po­rary lamps fixed at in­ter­vals along the bar, in the cov­ered court­yard, or pull up a chair in the cor­ri­dor dining space, as we did; wher­ever you are you’ll feel part of the ac­tion, such is the pocket-sized feel of the place.

The menu is cer­tainly de­clut­tered, but you want ev­ery spuntino (small plate) and most of the sec­ondi (mains). Bur­rata, tomato and basil al­ways ap­peals but so do the goose liver par­fait and smoked ham hock ter­rine that a group of Ital­ians are de­vour­ing at the neigh­bour­ing ta­ble. They also rec­om­mend – with good rea­son, we soon find out – the stuffed baby squid with sal­s­ic­cia and a tangy caponata, and the pork and fen­nel meat­balls. Eat­ing squid can be like chew­ing leather but th­ese three lit­tle crit­ters ( above) are ten­der and juicy, redo­lent of the fen­nel from the sausage stuffing. The scal­lops are nicely charred and sit over a can­nellini bean purée.

But it’s the meat­balls that win me over. There’s an­other marked hit of fen­nel and sweet­ness from the slick of tomato sugo un­der­neath, and the sautéed greens to one side. What I re­ally like is the lib­eral sprin­kling of finely grated pecorino that cov­ers the dish like a de­li­cious veil. It also blan­kets the gnoc­chi with kale, wal­nuts and truf­fle. Per­fect lit­tle pil­lows melt in the mouth, the kale is sweet and crunchy, the wal­nuts and mush­rooms roasted and earthy. But it’s doused in truf­fle oil, which is noth­ing like the real thing, smoth­er­ing and very nearly suf­fo­cat­ing this oth­er­wise well-ex­e­cuted dish. Next time it’ll be the di­avola spatch­cock or maybe the porchetta with du puy lentils.

Com­pact and re­fresh­ingly un­pre­ten­tious, Coppa Spuntino is good value and the sort of place you could re­lo­cate to any ma­jor city. Delizioso.

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