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Casa Coppelle Restaurant, Rome

We arrived early evening at Casa Coppelle, having had a photo stop at the Pantheon (which is perhaps Rome’s most complete ancient ruin). The staff greeted us warmly and offered us a choice of seating inside or out. We peeked inside, it looked beautiful…

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…but the restaurant isn’t on a main road so there wasn’t much traffic passing (I think just three or four vehicles passed us in the two hours were were seated there) and the moon was shining down from a clear sky; in such circumstances it seemed criminal not to take advantage of the outside tables.

Our waiter had a refreshing lack of over-politeness. One of the first things he did upon seeing Lamia’s brown skin was ask if she ate pork. She doesn’t and told him so, after which he described the non-pork dishes on the menu. Some might call this presumptuous or rude but I liked it. I don’t want to mess around either so as long as somebody smiles whilst being straightforward with us, it’s fine by me.

Whilst we looked over the menu I enjoyed a beer and Lamia a prosecco. We also snacked on the table bread; there was an interesting range including olive flavour, a spongy, salty one, walnut, whole meal and thick plain white.

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Before I describe our dinner I’ll mention that in our opinion at Casa Coppelle you’re not just paying for the food and location but also genuinely friendly service. Throughout the evening we saw the staff interacting warmly with all customers (and their children if they had them) and our own waiter wasn’t shy to put his opinion forward regarding what we might like to eat or drink, as a friend would. He didn’t recommend the most expensive things either (as some waiters do when it comes to the wine list); he was smart enough to consider what we’d ordered already and then he worked us out from there.

Our food arrived within fifteen minutes of ordering.

For starters I had Caprese spring rolls.

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It was a satisfying, non-oily and light beginning to the meal. The spring rolls had a crispy outer and soft inner and were decorated with a showing of semi-sweet balsamic, ripe cherry tomatoes, a rocket salad and five perfectly cooked prawns. Inside was the classic caprese filling of mozzarella, basil and tomato which made for a subtle dish. It’s not that I really got to search for the taste, only that it didn’t smack me in the taste buds as certain dishes can at some lesser restaurants who rely heavily on the sort of cheap hits that too much sugar or salt provide.

Lamia had the bruschetta.

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“It’s a delicious range of brushetta,” said Lamia, “the mozzarella and tomato taste fresh, you know, like the cheese is moist and chewy but not rubbery. There’s also a Parma ham with artichoke, very Roman but as I don’t eat pork I’m going to pass that one to you. The ricotta and spinach mixture is warm, creamy and a joy to look at, such colour! And the asparagus is very, very garlicky!”

I moved onto ravioli. The texture of the dish was all in the pasta as the bed of tomatoes and olives made for a very thin sauce, enough to show you a taste of what was inside the ravioli but not enough to soak the pasta or offer any texture. I liked it’s light freshness and the slight hit of sea salt. It was perfectly presented too, a visual treat for those of us with cameras!

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Lamia had the square spaghetti.

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“It’s cooked al dente, I like that, and there’s a very dominant cheesy, salty taste. No need for extra pepper on this dish, it’s already spiced excellently with pepper and pecorino.”

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I ordered a glass of house red wine, the waiter brought me a bottle but I corrected him and he didn’t fuss, just poured me a glass and took the rest of the bottle back. It was slightly above room temperature, as it should be.

For main Lamia had the beef fillet.

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“The plate is warm. I ordered it well done and for the first time in Rome it’s actually well done and not medium. I know it’s not for everyone but I don’t like my meat bloody so a bit of char is most welcome. It’s soft though, cuts through easily and it’s also a big portion. I’m impressed.”

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For my main I had the chefs special.

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I confess to being unsure what this dish was. I didn’t ask, you see. The previous dishes had inspired me to have confidence in the chefs so I just trusted their special. I’m glad I did. Firstly, as you can see, it was visually exciting (green, red, white, the colours of Italy). It also had a satisfying range of textures, something like sushi really but with more bite. And taste-wise there was nothing very overpowering about it – in that respect it was a typically modern Roman dish – but if I’m trying to give you an idea of flavour I’d say it was delicate and halfway between sea and land.

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For dessert Lamia had her staple; tiramisu.

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“Creamy layers, a strong coffee taste and a subtle sweetness, it’s what I expect in a good tiramisu,” Lamia said. “It’s a perfect dessert to finish with, it’s like the rest of the meal was always pointing to this all along. The tastes are stronger in this dish, more defined than with the other courses. Here you find a conclusion to the dining experience; it’s a hugely satisfying ending.”

I had a nest of raspberry meringues, and it was magnificent.

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People so often skip dessert in restaurants as it’s common for it to be overpriced and a let down and in many countries, like England, that’s completely understandable but in Italy the dessert is always the best part of the meal; there’s no way I would miss it and this raspberry meringue is a perfect example of why.

Desserts couldn’t be as good without what went before them, of course – a real Italian meal is actually an event that starts small and builds to a fireworks explosion of an ending – but whatever your starter and main were they’d be rather unfulfilling, I think, if you left a Roman restaurant before dessert.

I can describe what I ate - crunchy meringue base and nests filled with soft whipped cream and raspberries – but the words just cannot do any justice at all to how delicious this dessert was. Relatively expensive it might have been (around £9), but worth it? Absolutely, yes.

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After that dessert I had to go and congratulate the chefs, it was an achievement to create such a dish. The kitchen staff turned out to be as friendly as the front of house had been and tolerated me as I snapped the second to last shot of the evening.

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If you’re looking for a contemporary Roman meal at a classy, romantic restaurant that’s popular with locals and tourists alike in the Pantheon/Piazza Navona area, we’d say you should consider Casa Coppelle. It’s not cheap but it is great value; the service is superb, the food imaginative and the atmosphere relaxed and friendly.

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You can find out a little more at the Casa Coppelle website; it’s still under construction at the time of writing but you can see a sample menu - http://www.casacoppelle.it/

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