432 East 9th Street
New York, NY 10009

There are two reasons that Americans (or at least I) have the stereotypical impression that Italian restaurants come pre-equipped with red-checkered tablecloths, Chianti-bottle-candelabras thickly coated in wax, a pizza oven in back, and Frank Sinatra playing overhead. Reason one is the media. You just can't escape the image. Reason two is that half of them are actually like this. I Coppi isn't (though it does have pizza).

I Coppi was initially suggested by Bossette, and how does one argue with someone I give that kind of name to? I Coppi is her favorite Italian restaurant and for the past month she'd raved about it. I began to fear that she'd blown it so out of proportion that for sure it would suck by the time I got there. As it turned out, I had nothing to fear but fear itself. She, me, Pike, and Swordsman, co-workers we four, journeyed downtown to the East Village.

I Coppi is a small place, much like most East Village restaurants, with about fifteen or so tables inside. Out back, though, is a large garden area that I took a quick peek at. It appeared to have heaters for cold evenings, but they weren't on this night and we ate inside. It's probably more of a fall thing. The interior, with its bare brick walls peppered with terra cotta reliefs, plants, and subdued but not too dim lighting was probably just as pretty. So no loss.

As was pointed out by Pike, every good diner knows that you always order the second-cheapest bottle of wine. So we got a nice, not-too-cheap-but-not-gonna-embarrass-you bottle of Chianti, and by the end of the evening polished off two of them. The menu at I Coppi is a mid-priced one, but the wines can get expensive quickly. They start at $30 and average around $60, but go up to $1200. So watch out. When we asked what a good bottle of Chainti was, the response was "Tell me your budget first". Never a good sign... or maybe always a good one (perspective and all). As she was pouring the wine I think the waitress said something to the effect of "see, for a moderate price, you can get a great wine. Well, not a great one, but pretty good." I was half expecting her to go on "well, decent anyway. Okay, this particular wine is plonk. But if you're gonna drink plonk, this THIS is the plonk to drink." I think we ordered the second bottle half out of spite. The other half was because there were four of us and we wanted to lay around the shanty, mama, and get a good buzz on.

The service fluctuated between good and weak. Good, in that the waitress certainly seemed to know what she was talking about and made recommendations that were right on the money. On the other hand, she was also somewhat impatient. On the one hand, she took away one of our bottles of wine before we'd finished. On the other hand, she gave us each a free glass of Vin Santo at dessert. Can't argue with that.

For starters, Swordsman and I ordered the Minestre Ceci, a chickpea soup with sage and tomato. It was pretty good, but they loaded on the salt like you wouldn't believe. Way too much, and Swordsman, who loved the soup, agreed that it was noticeably high. Bossette and Pike decided to split the Sformato Di Spinaci E Ricotta, a dome-shaped spinach casserole served with a tomato, basil and olive oil sauce. This is a love it or hate it dish which I was oddly indifferent to, but which Bossette and Pike were on the love side. You have to enjoy the custardy texture of creamy spinach and ricotta, and they did.

To my dismay, I was the only one at the table who ordered something that was actually on the menu. This will force me to return later (not a problem, I assure you) to make a more reader-friendly review. Swordsman and Pike both picked a special. The Seafood Ravioli Special. The raviolis were few in number but large in size, about three plus inches square. We were told what the seafood inside was, but I didn't write it down, not thinking anyone would order it. Silly me. Pike ordered his in the initially recommended cream sauce. Swordsman, who avoids both cheese and cream despite not being lactose intolerant ordered it in the alternative tomato with meat sauce. Since we all shared bites of eachothers' dishes, I can attest that both variations of the dish were excellent. And I don't even like seafood ravioli.

Bosette's entree was a little more complicated. See, she started with something that was actually on the menu. But the thing is, she has this soft spot for I Coppi's gnocchi and wanted to substitute it instead of tagliatelle. However, she was told that because the original dish had a creamy bolognese sauce, this would make the gnocchi too soggy. So she wound up with the server-recommended, custom-conceived Gnocchi in a Tomato Meat Sauce. Despite not being something she initially wanted to order, this dish was probably the best of the four. The sauce was perfect and the gnocchi melted in your mouth like it was half pasta, half ghost.

I ordered the Stufato Di Cinghiale Con Polenta, a wild boar stew served over a bed of polenta. This was delicious, though a skidge fatty. If you like meat-only stews and want something a little less common but with a lot of flavor, then you're going to love this. My only complaint was that it was, like my soup, on the salty side, though not nearly to same degree.

Come dessert time, we went for splitting two of them. First up, we chose the Torta Al Cioccolato, a chocolate cake with whipped cream. This was good, but everyone agreed that it was too dry and dense. Though if memory serves, it was finished off anyway. Bossette recommended the Tiramisu, which she said caused her to faint the first time she tried it. I love tiramisu and how could I vote against something faintworthy? And I can say without hesitation that I think she actually might have fainted. It was probably the best tiramisu I've ever had. I kid thee not. Pike and I also got some coffees and recall that the waitress comped us dessert wine.

The total cost of our three appetizers, four entrees, two bottles of wine, two desserts, and two coffees was $205 not including tip.

I will return.

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