Hanging out at the bar waiting for our group to arrive, I watched the interactions between the bartenders and the patrons as they chatted and mixed drinks at one of San Mateo’s hottest restaurants on B Street, Osteria Coppa (139 South B Street; 650-579-6021; ; OsteriaCoppa.com).
The restaurant was filling up quickly for a Wednesday night and space at the bar was tight and it was only 6 p.m. An unusual scene at any restaurant mid-week around the Bay Area, but not all restaurants are bestowed as one of the “10 Hot New Restaurants in the Bay Area” by Zagat and named a Michelin Guide, “Bay Area Bib Gourmand Pick” within its first four years.
The team behind Osteria Coppa is seasoned restaurateurs Paul and Julie Shenkman, previously owned Half Moon Bay’s Pasta Moon and Cetrella Bistro and Café, who partnered up with Chef Lewis Rossman. Lewis is owner of Osteria Coppa’s sister restaurant Sam’s Chowder House in Half Moon Bay, Calif. The winning combination is topped off by rising star Executive Chef Chanan Kamen.
I knew Babes and our group of friends were in for an amazing evening and an amazing evening it was.
The food that came out of the kitchen was so fresh that it tasted like Chef Chanan plucked the ingredients directly from his backyard (which is half the truth since the ingredients are sourced from local farms). That was only half of the magic of the dishes that came out of the kitchen.
Each dish was beautifully presented and tasted even better than it looked. The flavors popped from the House-Cured Salumi Platter to the on the Pork Sausage, Speck, Crimini Mushrooms Pizza to the Pork and Beef Meatballs that we started off with passing around the table and enjoying.
We marveled at the unique and well defined flavors of each dish, but there were some that weren’t winners with us. This is an Italian restaurant, but don’t expect your usual pasta. The pasta is all hand crafted and thicker than what is typically found at many Italian restaurants. Unfortunately, that makes getting the pasta to al dente perfection difficult. Our pasta in the Scialiatelli, a spicy marinara eggplant with basil and ricotta salata dish, was undercooked in the wrong way. The center of the pasta was doughy and clearly not cooked through. The other disappointment was the Chicken Piccata. It was average at best.
Each dish had its own unique and well defined flavor, but the truly stand out dishes were the Grilled Skirt Steak, the Conchiglioni, a Shrimp Lemon Verbena and Asparagus and the desert, Butterscotch Budino.
As we passed around our plates all we could hear were sounds of approval coming from everyone at the table as their eyes lit up with each bite of the savory delights. It was only topped off by the Butterscotch Budino that I scrapped the bottom of the cup to get the last bit (and I’m not even a desert person).
Then there was the extensive cocktail and wine list that any oenophile will appreciate.
The restaurant appears modern and sophisticated to match the rest of the trendy street that was once a place no one wanted to go to unless they were musicians or students of music getting equipment at B Street Music. The store has survived the changes that have sprouted up around it during the past 25 years since Babes spent the summers and school vacations of her youth at her grandmother’s condo in the area.
She was stunned by the changes when she stepped off of the Caltrain at the San Mateo Station from San Francisco to meet me at the restaurant. She wasn’t expecting to dine at one of the Peninsula’s fastest up and coming restaurants when I told her it was on B Street.
Somehow, with all its popularity, Osteria Coppa retains its neighborhood eatery vibe through its friendly and welcoming staff who greet you at the door to Chef Chanan who steps out of the busy kitchen to chat with guests throughout the night.
Expect to spend a full evening enjoying great food. This is a place to celebrate with friends, even if it’s just a girls’ night out or Sunday brunch.
THE DIRTY DISH
Osteria Coppa, 139 South B Street, San Mateo, Calif.; 650-579-6021; ; OsteriaCoppa.com
TYPE OF RESTAURANT: Italian
(0 – 5, 0 = the worst and 5 = the best)
AMBIANCE: Fun, busy, but friendly. Expect to spend a full evening enjoying great food. This is a place to celebrate with friends, even if it’s just a girls’ night out or Sunday brunch.
SCENE: We were California casual in jeans and t-shirts, but other guests were dressed up for the evening. Either way, you won’t feel under dress or uncomfortable while sipping your wine or dinning on the delicious food.
SERVICE: Friendly and welcoming from the hostess to the chef who comes out of the kitchen to chat with guests.
NOISE LEVEL: In spite of being busy and tight quarters at the front of the restaurant, where we sat, we easily carried on our conversation and weren’t bothered by other guests’ conversations.
RECOMMENDED DISHES: The menu changes constantly based on what is available as the chef uses farm-fresh ingredients, but if it’s on the menu, the Grilled Skirt Steak and the Conchiglioni shouldn’t be missed. Also don’t skip the Charcuterie Plate with the House-Cured Salumi and desert.
SIP: Where to start with this impressive offerings of cocktails and wine? There isn’t a bad selection.
CHECK, PLEASE: $$$$ = Over $30
(price of average dinner/lunch/breakfast/brunch bill for an individual dinner)
THE EAT: Loved the atmosphere and the food.
WORTH THE NIGHT OUT?: This was delicious!
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