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Coppola Ristorante – Clementon, NJ

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Coppola Ristorante
Clementon, NJ
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Price Paid (Includes Tip): $48
Meal: Dinner
Time: 830pm

On the review circuit tonight was the Coppola Ristorante, an Italian restaurant I’ve never been to before. My girlfriend had highly recommended the food, so we needed to go together for the authentic Chewru experience. =)

Coppola is located in a strip mall, but it’s a fairly new, nicer strip mall and I don’t have any specific problems with the location or the exterior. There are the typical neon ‘pizza’ and ‘pasta’ signs, which seemed appropriate and familiar enough. There were quite a few teenagers hanging around outside, but that hardly seems unusual for a Friday night at a pizza place.

Inside, it was rather busy and crowded. I’d say at least 80% of the dining capacity was filled, and there was no one available to seat us. There wasn’t a dedicated dining room like I’ve seen in some hybrid pizza/italian places. We walked to a free spot, sat down, and waited slightly longer than I had hoped for a waitress to take our drink order. She was pleasant, but I always want to get some drinks as soon as possible; I was pretty hungry tonight and downing a glass of water often helps to curb those hunger pains.

We each ordered a dinner special at $16.95 and $15.95, respectively. My girlfriend got the Chicken Epoca, a nice looking dish with a choice of pasta, grilled chicken breast, roasted peppers, spinach, and mushrooms. I tried the Tilapia Catalina, a good-sized Tilapia filet in a cream sauce with asparagus, broccoli, and red peppers. Each meal came with italian wedding soup, house salad, and a slab of rustica bread that, unfortunately, was served cold. Of the three, the salad was surprisingly the best appetizer. The house oil and vinegar dressing was not too heavy, flavorful, and the iceberg-only greens were bright and fresh. The soup was good, not great, and pretty skimpy on the meatballs traditionally found in that kind of soup. The bread was a pretty small portion for two people, maybe about 2-3 slices per person. We liked the texture and consistency, but we both wished it was served right out of the oven. We didn’t wait too long for the starters to come, but they throw them both at you at the same time, so unless you want your soup to get cold, you have to let your salad sit in the dressing for a few minutes.

The chicken entree was the winner of the two. The chicken was tender, evenly cooked, and complimented the flavors of the mushrooms, spinach, and peppers well. The linguine my girlfriend selected with the chicken was prepared well – not too chewy or too soft – and as a big pasta fan she thoroughly enjoyed it. The tilapia had excellent presentation, centered on a plate surrounded by broccoli crowns and fresh asparagus laying on top. Unfortunately, the sauce was a bit confusing and wasn’t especially memorable (a greenish, not-so-thick mixture). Whereas tilapia is usually a mild fish (at least the times I’ve had it), I found their offering to be unusually strong-smelling and ‘fishy tasting’, which I do not prefer. When I let my girlfriend ‘borrow’ a broccoli crown, she immediately noted that it she could taste the fishyness even in though they were served on the side of the plate and not directly in the sauce.

For desert, we had a pair of canoli and they were excellent. Rich and creamy, they were fully-filled with no annoying air spaces that make you feel cheated after paying a premium to get them. Other tangibles we noticed were that even when we were dining and spending a good amount of cash, our drinks were still served in plastic-coated cups with plastic lids. To me, it felt like fast-food; when I’m ‘dining out’, give me a glass! On that note, I do not believe refills were free, either. That sucks that some places still do that. What does a glass of soda cost in terms of the syrup? A few cents?

The place was relatively clean and the service was friendly. I’d love to come back and try out their pizza and ‘sub shop’ fare, as I tend to think it would be pretty good by the volume of people at the counter grabbing slices.

Pros:

– Reasonable enough prices for dinners that include soup, salad, and bread
– Decent pasta dishes
– Good canolis!
– Polite service

Cons:

– Couldn’t pull off a more sophisticated fish dish
– Service time was herky-jerky during the dinner rush
– No real atmosphere for intimate Italian dining, it’s a pizza place first and a restaurant second

Our Score: 3.5 Chews
★★★½☆

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