Return of the snack – pasta and spuntino favourite COPPA reopens on Eagle Street
In the midst of chaos that consumed us all in March 2020, Brisbane City’s beloved negroni-slinging, pizzetta-dispensing and spuntino-hawking bar and eatery COPPA closed the doors of its Creek Street locale. While we mourned what we assumed was a casualty of COVID, the COPPA crew was quietly biding its time until things settled before rising like a phoenix once more. The team emerged from hibernation in late 2020 to announce its surprise relocation to Eagle Street Pier, a move that saw it take over the space formerly home to Il Centro. COPPA 2.0 opened on Thursday January 14 after a whirlwind of activity, showing off a slick coastal-Italian aesthetic as well as a menu of delectable fare and a drinks list featuring negroni slushies, spritzes and, of course, plenty of wine. Take a look inside …
If you had big plans for 2020 (or know someone that did), it’s highly likely that they were disrupted to some degree. Weddings were postponed, international holidays were cancelled, daily routines were sent into disarray and restaurant relocations were forced to the back-burner. While that last inconvenience might not apply to you (it’s pretty niche, to be fair), it was certainly a significant hurdle for Tom Sanceau, Bonnie Shearston and their hospitality group Happy Fat. In early 2020 the team was investigating new sites for its popular boutique pizzeria and charcuterie concept COPPA, which was nearing the end of its lease at its Creek Street home where it had operated since 2014. Before the pandemic hit, COPPA was busier than ever. The restaurant’s weekday lunch service was fully booked five days a week, with the corporate crowd and city-slicking socialites often tabbing it as their preferred spot for gormandising. As The City emptied in the wake of widespread lockdowns, COPPA quietly closed and the team were forced to play the waiting game (Tom himself helped man the grill at Red Hook for its takeaway service) until the inner-city scene showed signs of life once more. As workers began to trickle back to the city centre in the latter half of 2020, the Happy Fat group reconnected with the team at Dexus – a suitor that was initially vying to bring COPPA to Eagle Street’s riverside precinct before COVID came to town. As fate would have it, the former home of long-running culinary institution Il Centro was now vacant and its closure meant a gap had opened in the market for an upscale Italian-inspired concept. Tom and his team fell in love with the space and its potential, quickly signing on to transplant the COPPA concept from Creek Street to the river’s edge.
Seeking to honour the integrity of the site’s previous inhabitant while also imbuing a touch of Happy Fat’s own design flair, the crew began transforming the space at the tail-end of 2020. Central to the overhaul was maximising the river views afforded by the site’s glass facade and wraparound outdoor dining space, altering the interior layout to ensure nearly every guest could take in the vista with just a turn of the head. A strip of cushy booths and some new communal tables have been brought in, while existing furniture was given some TLC to ensure it suited the new vibe. Structurally much of the venue remains the same, however Il Centro’s private-dining space has been dismantled and repositioned at the other end of the restaurant to make way for a bar extension and a new casual-dining nook. In terms of tonal aesthetics, COPPA has done away with the dark and moody palette of its previous guise, opting for an appearance that reflects both Brisbane’s tropical climate and COPPA’s breezy coastal-Italian inspirations – think sheer white curtains, blonde timber furnishings and cream-coloured leather, as well as some textural interplay courtesy of some stripped-back structural elements. Guests can also expect an extra infusion of greenery and the addition of an olive tree soon. Operationally, Tom says that the new-look COPPA has taken cues from Barcelona’s drop-in dining scene, encouraging wanderers to pop in for a laid-back bite and sip before continuing on. That being said, the crew is still committed to nailing the leisurely dine-in atmosphere of its lauded lunch and dinner services.
Speaking of which, COPPA’s regular crowd will be chuffed to hear that much of the restaurant’s menu remains intact, barring one exception. Il Centro’s kitchen could not accomodate a woodfired pizza oven, which means COPPA 2.0’s menu currently consists of salads, pasta, mains and small plates (though Tom is open to the idea of parking a mobile oven outside for pop-up pizza nights). As always, COPPA’s dining experience starts with appetite-whetting spuntino like warm focaccia, natural oysters with tarragon mignonette, Sicilian olives and white anchovies served with crispy Sardinian flat bread. These bites are the perfect segue into the small plates selection, which is headlined by the likes of pumpkin arancini, veal-and-pork meatballs, burrata with summer squash, scallop crudo, and bresaola with rocket and parmesan. COPPA’s large-format dishes include pork-and-beef ragu, gnocchi with kale, mushroom and walnut, tiger prawn and Fraser Island crab linguine, roast porchetta, bistecca alla Fiorentina and pesce del giorno (fish of the day). With a larger bar at their disposal, COPPA’s drinks slingers have added some tasty new tipples to the libation list. Alongside an established assortment of Italian and Italian-Australian wines, beers and cocktails, COPPA is also dispensing a collection of boozy slushies, informed by the trend that recently took LA by storm (Tom and Bonnie’s Echo Park cafe Pollen was an unfortunate casualty of the pandemic). COPPA’s cocktail list features a frozen negroni (affectionally labelled as the Fro-groni), frozen prosecco (Fro-secco) and a pina colada (Coppa Colada), all available alongside more variations of the beloved negroni (including an espresso negroni), spritzes and an expanded focus on gins in the back bar.
COPPA is now open at Eagle Street Pier for lunch and dinner. For contact details and operating hours, be sure to check out the Stumble Guide.
The Stumble Guide is our comprehensive Brisbane dining guide with more than 2400 places to eat, drink, shop and play.