Coppia: Restaurant Guide 2014

417 NW 10th Ave., 295-9536, coppiaportland.com

[LOVE BITES] At Coppia, the Dutch-modernist lamp on the wall doesn't merely radiate light, it has radial light tubes to show you that it radiates light. It feels kind of like a metaphor. In fact, the whole restaurant feels like a metaphor, a relentlessly single-minded symbol of a wine bar that is somehow also actually a wine bar, with self-consciously offset stonework, neutral green walls and a 20-foot-tall museum case filled with bottles. Owned by Pink Martini's Timothy Nishimoto, here you do not eat without wine, nor drink without eating. While at most restaurants the sommelier must play catch-up to the chefs, at Coppia the light Italian fare seems both specifically designed for the wine and incomplete without it. It is an inherently romantic notion of food, perhaps. Each bite of the lovely black-garlic oxtail agnolotti carries a premonition of the dusky fantino barbera paired with it, and each sip of wine calls the dish back to the fork. It sort of makes you drink and eat too fast, frankly. Slow down and take the time to savor the salty midrange warmth of tender duck and chard playing against the herbal notes in an artisanal pinot noir. The coppa moscato served with dessert may feel a bit thin until your mouth is full of the fat and blackberry of the panna cotta, at which point you can suddenly taste the skin on the grapes; the wine's flavor is filled out by its counterpart the same way a lover's gaze will fill out a weak chin. Service is so unassuming in the dim light as to disappear; this is all between the plate and the wine, people. And as for you? You've just got tickets to the play. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.

Pro tip:

The generous half-pours will nicely suffice if you're eating a multicourse meal.

4-10 pm Tuesday-Thursday, 4-11 pm Friday-Saturday. $$$.