While some of us spend Meatless Monday exploring the exotic cuisine at Pondicheri or Lucy Ethiopian Cuisine, there is nothing like a traditional carb fest at an authentic Italian restaurant. Italian cuisine has long been a favorite among vegetarians, with its pizza, pasta, hearty soups and salads loaded with greens. Since Houston offers options way beyond a Never Ending Pasta Bowl at your local Olive Garden, it is an upscale eatery in Rice Village that has us craving some noteworthy vegetarian delights.
Open seven days a week for lunch and dinner, Coppa Osteria is nestled on Morningside Drive in Rice Village. It's one of Houston's more celebrated dining destinations for vegetarians and meat-eaters alike, though its name is certainly more inviting to the latter. But vegetarians shouldn't be put off: Its large menu of shareable starters, flavorful pastas and decadent entrees make it a popular choice, while the intimate dining room and lively outdoor patio are indeed a bonus.
In addition to classics like housemade ravioli or thin crust margherita pizza, Coppa invites vegetarian guests to indulge in exciting dishes such as crispy, spiced chickpeas; burrata pomodoro with torn ciabatta; or sweet-and-sour eggplant caponata. Side dishes can easily be enjoyed à la carte as a meatless meal. They include wilted greens with crispy garlic, chickpea-and-tomato stew, crispy caulflower with pine nuts and capers and Parmesan-polenta pudding. Full of fresh flavor and topped with aromatic herbs, the vegetarian options are no doubt just as enticing as some of the flesh-heavy selections.
During lunch, you can score a hot vegetable panini loaded with tomato, eggplant and zucchini, and slathered with chickpea puree and basil pesto with your choice of salad — my favorite is the stunning red quinoa and beet — for only $10!
Expect nothing less from weekend brunch, when Coppa's menu includes a fig mostarda croissant sandwich with Brie, honey-and-rosemary butter or almond-raspberry coffee cake. Traditional brunch cocktails including mimosas, Bellinis and bloody Marys are the perfect addition to any late-morning meal — meaty or not — and are best enjoyed on the charming patio.
Coppa Osteria, 5210 Morningside Dr., coppaosteriahouston.com