European Flair

Flagstaff’s Coppa Café creates culinary artistry with local ingredients
The moment you step inside Coppa Café from the curb of the nondescript strip shopping center in Flagstaff, Arizona, you’ll know you’re in for something unique. 
 
If it feels like you’re in Europe, that’s intentional. Executive Chef/Co-Owner Brian Konefal and his wife, Paola Fioravanti, have brought a well-traveled sensibility to both their surroundings and their well-curated menu, which includes Continental staples such as charcuterie, steak frites, and vegetable terrine.  
 
The eatery is snug, with just 12 tables and charmingly eclectic décor of differently colored, mismatched chairs, and tables topped with fresh flowers in bud vases. “I want to keep it small so I can control the quality of every plate,” Konefal explains. 
 
That resonates with both locals and the many visitors who find themselves in Flagstaff en route to the Grand Canyon. Though the concept is European fine dining, the restaurant — which celebrates its fourth successful year this month — is casual and approachable. 
 
Konefal, a 2002 Northern Arizona University graduate who attended culinary school in Italy, comes from a family where, he says, “If you cooked, you didn’t have to clean.” So he cooked. In addition to stateside kitchen stints in Boston, New York, and San Francisco, he’s logged time in Spain and the Piedmont region of Italy, where he met his wife. 
 
The farm-to-table, seasonal, and local sourcing concept that he employs in his cafe is “just the way people cook in Europe,” Konefal says. He changes the entire menu four times annually, and spontaneously when he comes across an interesting product such as wild mushrooms in the summer or boar sausage in the fall. 
 
“I wanted to create a restaurant where the cooking was based on what’s available here,” he adds.  
 
A delicious standout dish that’s always on the menu is pillowy soft, richly flavored veal agnolotti (pictured below). During the summer, the pasta is stuffed with diced, roasted nopalitos, from prickly pear cactus pads, and creamy ricotta. “This dish gives diners a sense of place,” he says. “And it gives our customers something to talk about.”