400 E. 20th Avenue, Denver
Docket Rating: 5 out of 5 gavels
A fragrant note of succulent tomatoes roasting permeates the kitchen while splashes of sizzling olive oil and dashes of aged balsamic tango in the frying pan. The sound of chopping pierces the air in a staccato melody, as the chef hums, “Voh – la – re, oh oh oh … Can – tar- e…” In the center of the kitchen, an island protrudes so as to show off its wares: cans of San Marzano tomatoes and boxes of pastry wafers starring the almonds of Puglia. These sensory deluges evoke memories of hours-long cooking days with my Sicilian great-grandmother and even longer evenings with the entire family gathered around the dinner table. My first sip of a very dry Michele Aloise Campole, Anglianico 2013 warms my soul with the assurance that I could expect an authentic Italian meal from Coperta, a recent addition to Uptown Denver’s burgeoning dining scene.
The eatery, headed by the same brother and sister team who own the acclaimed Beast + Bottle, opened its doors in July 2016. The spirit of Coperta is to celebrate the food and wine of Rome and southern Italy. One server related to me that as in Rome, Thursdays at Coperta are gnocchi days. This Roman tradition is colloquially referred to as giovedì gnocchi, which translates as gnocchi Thursdays. However, at Coperta, giovedì gnocchi is not only a colloquial harkening to the mother country, but a way of life at the restaurant. Indeed, the staff interacts more as family — inspiring a genuinely inviting atmosphere.
The menu is as authentic Italian as the atmosphere. The polenta fritters — prepared alla vicentina, as our editor confirmed — were expertly crusty on the outside, inviting the inside to melt flavorfully on the tongue. Veal crostini with pickled peppers provided the perfect bitter/salty contrast. Though my greatest delight, of course, was dessert — a classic tartufo-gelato combo and warm grispelle. The dark chocolate sphere lasted mere seconds before eager spoons cracked its protective shell, causing rich vanilla gelato to ooze onto a floor of dark chocolate flakes. The grispelle did not last much longer as my fellow patrons — their eyes sparkling in glee — dipped sugar-coated doughnuts in Marsala caramel. What a perfect way to celebrate Carnevale, when the consumption of fried foods is the law of the land.
While my fellow Docketeers and I did not have the opportunity to sample everything on the menu, I most certainly will have occasion to return to Coperta. Indeed, the restaurant offers many ways to embrace life and food. It recently opened for lunch and also offers an aperitivo hour at the bar every day at 4 p.m. Further, I would be remiss if I did not mention the unique opportunity to dine at the mozzarella bar to observe the chef’s artful in-house creations. So, gather with friends and family, enjoy authentic Italian fare at Coperta, and remember: A tavola non si invecchia! D
Kaelyn Gustafson is a judicial law clerk to the Honorable Rebecca Freyre on the Colorado Court of Appeals. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.