COCO’S IN NASHVILLE // LIFE-CHANGING BITE

Planet Weekly has been producing local restaurant reviews for many years. So in a way, this is a history-setting precedent because it’s the first restaurant review outside of Tuscaloosa County in 14 years. It has nothing to do with running out of Tuscaloosa and Northport restaurants to write about, but everything to do with the reviewer taking an impromptu trip to Nashville, Tennessee. Many Tuscaloosians have shared with me their love story of Nashville’s music, art, scenery, and cuisine. In the heart of singer songwriter central sits a culinary abundance of five star restaurants. My very good friend, Whitney, took me to the far side town, avoiding the tourist traps, to indulge where the locals go.
On Charlotte and 51st sits a family owned and operated authentic Italian market and restaurant, CoCo’s. An open patio looks out over an artificial green turf where customers can par take in a game of Bocce. An Italian ball sport, Bocce resembles America’s version of bowling. The front of house is occupied by a small Italian market. To the left is the hostess stand guarding the crowded dining room. Our names were taken with a promise of a short wait time of 45 minutes. We did as everyone else did and joined the line to the bar. A silent giggle came to me as I listened to two employees bicker in Italian. With glasses full of intoxicating white wine, we peered through the boxes and jars of imported groceries. Sitting at the bottom of one shelf was a jar of Nutella; correction, an 11 pound jar of Nutella. I’m still not sure how a hazelnut spread relates to Italy or Italian cuisine, but this is what pulled my attention. Mostly, the dietitian in me wanted to calculate the total number of delicious calories. By the time I finished converting kilograms to pounds and pounds to grams, it was time to be seated. If you are curious this particular 11 pound jar of hazelnut spread had around 27,000 calories.
The dining area was dimly lit and filled with families, business men, young couples, and friends. The atmosphere is what I would expect at dinner time in an Italian family. There was an intoxicating happiness among the customers, or was that my wine? None the less, it was obvious everyone was having an enjoyable evening. Our small table sat only two to three feet away from the next. An older couple welcomed us as my friend complimented their food choices and I attempted not to knock one of them in the head with my purse. Snug at the table, I gazed the menu. It was only natural that us two Americans stick with what we know, bruschetta, pizza, and lasagna. The Bruschetta was plated beautifully. Triangle sliced ciabatta held layers of cheese, tomatoes, onion and basil. A balsamic glaze was delicately drizzled across the plate. The immediately bite was life changing. The crisp bread gave way to the juicy tomatoes and bold sweet balsamic. All attempts to eat like a lady failed. I placed my knife and fork aside and went all hands in.
The main entrees where delivered before we finished the appetizer. I immediately handed my empty plate to Whitney for my serving of lasagna. The Lasagna was an endless dish of warm, gooey goodness. Yes, that is a technical term used by the most respected food critics. It was so soft, as if the noodles had been melted along with the cheese. The layers had fused together giving ever bite perfect balance. The margherita pizza was dressed on a thin white crust with a single layer of red tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella cheese and basil leaves. Judging solely by the sheer simplicity of this pizza, I could tell it was going to be a “party on my palate,” as Whitney would say. The sweet basil complimented the salty mozzarella cheese and sauce so well. Both dishes were so delicious it was hard to pick which bite to take next. So, I compromised with dipping my pizza in the lasagna. This is when the food coma set in. Perhaps this is my “happy place?” No, my “happy place” is found in Tuscaloosa. Though an enjoyable evening with good food and even better company, nothing tastes as good as coming home. Until my next bite, happy eating!
CoCo’s Italian Market and Restaurant is located at 411 51st Ave N, Nashville, TN 37209
Cindy Huggins, RDN, LD is a registered dietitian nutritionist and local “foodie.” Follow her on Twitter @DietitianCindy

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