Coming back for secondi
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.