Coppola at Horizon Hills

My first encounter with the name Coppola was when I watched that 1972 academy award-winning film where its writer and director was Francis Ford Coppola.

Coppola Family Pizzeria & Wine Bar at Horizon Hills
It was after I had read The Godfather, the made-into-movie-book by Mario Puzo, so I could better understand the family feud and trail of horror avenging in this dark movie about the Mafia and Italian culture.

Somehow I cannot forget the weird, raspy voice that lead actor, Marlon Brando, affected for his role in this film…

Fast-forward to the present and I’m sitting in a restaurant named Coppola Family Pizzeria & Wine Bar right here in Johor Baru, within the Horizon Hills residential area.

I’m listening to the heavily accented voice of restauranteur, Stefan, who’s introducing the dining concept in his restaurant and how he aims to create an ethnic themed dining destination here.

Freshly baked pizza from this oven
The intricacies of his Italian-Bulgarian accent takes a while to attune my ears to but from his animated expressions, his passion for serving authentic cuisine that he grew up with, is obvious.

As he shares his plans about the range of restaurants opening here, he seems to be on a mission to establish Horizon Hills as a preferred dining destination, starting with Coppola which specializes in a menu of Italian and Mediterranean favourites.  

In fact, this pizzeria has installed a wood-fire oven shipped in from Italy, to bake a variety of some 20 different types of pizza on their menu.

Stefan [Right] opening a bottle of liqueur at the bar
His career in managing top restaurants brought Stefan to Singapore and when he explored the possibilities in establishing his own restaurant, he fell in love with JB, the place where he believes that people will better appreciate his food.

Opened since late 2014, Stefan is pleased that Coppola has established a reputation for consistently good food and service, and tells us that the same team continues to work with him since its opening.

I observe that Stefan is very much a hands-on restauranteur who not only issues instructions to his team but also steps up to offer table service.

A Bulgarian meatball, Kjufte, topped with a dollop of sauce
While there are non-Vegetarian items on the menu, he said diners are welcome to request for their preference of Vegetarian or Gluten-free versions.

A glance at the tasting menu gives me an idea of the items listed under Salads, Appetizers, Pastas, Pizzas, Main courses and Desserts, lined up for our group.

So once the talking is done, it’s time for the tasting.

Our meal starts with a refreshing taste from the Mediterranean, in fact a salad from Capri or Caprese Salad created with slices of Mozarella cheese and tomato topped with fresh basil and olive oil.

My pan-fried whole prawn wrapped in a strip of bacon
The refreshing toss of tomatoes, red peppers, cucumber and onions in the Bulgari Salad is another popular choice for salads here.

The recommended warm Appetizers are Kjufte or Kyufte – Bulgarian meatballs – made with minced pork and flattened on the grill. These fragrant meatballs come with a dip of a special house sauce.

When I sink my teeth into the pan-fried whole prawns wrapped in a strip of bacon, I can understand why this is yet another popular choice for Appetizers.

With my appetite suitably whet for more food, I eagerly anticipate the next items on the menu: Pasta and Pizza in authentic Italian flavours.

Homemade Ravioli with mushroom sauce
When I spot the word gamberi in Spaghetti aglio olio e gamberi, I expect to see whole shrimps/prawns and there it is – a large prawn – perched on top of the pasta.

“Italian wonton,” I overheard someone’s smart comment when the next pasta dish is served. I have to agree because it’s Coppola’s homemade Ravioli with mushroom sauce!

Coppola will not be complete without a dish named after the famous film icon so the next recommended item is Pizza Francis.

Pizza Francis is a recommended pizza choice
This popular choice of freshly-baked flatbread is topped with bacon, chorizo (pork sausage), mushrooms and sliced chilli, for a hint of heat.

Another good pizza choice is Pizza Al frutti di mare, a typically Italian pizza with generous toppings of seafood on a bed of tomato sauce.

The Mains recommended include the Sea Bass in citrus sauce and Lamb ala Toscana.

Stefan assures us that the lamb shank must be tender as it was baked for 12 hours.

As we whip out our cameras to snap shots of the dishes, Stefan wryly commented, “Italian food is not very photogenic.” And I have to agree with him.

Sea Bass in citrus sauce
While plating and presentation does make a difference to diners, true food connoisseurs will still place authentic taste as top priority.

When we dissected the dishes, we discovered that the pan seared Sea Bass with a side of delicious citrus sauce, is lying on a bed of sautéed spinach.

The marinated lamb is indeed fall-off-the-bone tender and is served with a side of risotto tossed with mushrooms and roasted vegetables.

With all these tasting dishes shared among us, it leaves sufficient space for us to enjoy the two recommended Desserts: Their highly acclaimed Tiramisu and Crepe Suzette.

Stefan added liqueur to flambe the
pancakes to prepare Crepe Suzette
While the Crepe Suzette is not quite Italian but actually French, I’m not complaining.

When Stefan and his team set up the stove to serve (Read: impress!) diners by the table, it occurs to me that never before did I have a Crepe Suzette experience in JB.

We watch as Stefan step-by-step, squeeze fresh orange juice into the pan to caramelize the citrus sauce and added liqueur to flambe the pancakes.

All this happening while I’m having a flashback to my previous experience… on a date in Singapore… a long time ago…

Served warm from the sizzling pan, the Crepe Suzette certainly lives up to its reputation.

From a warm dessert, we move on to their famous chilled Tiramisu.

“Real Tiramisu cannot be without alcohol,” declared Stefan, who I can tell is very proud of this dessert.

A serving of their highly acclaimed Tiramisu
This delicious coffee-flavoured Italian cheesecake is created from a (carefully-guarded!) traditional recipe with a strict balance of alcohol, made from a blend of three liqueurs.

Yum! This Tiramisu meets with my expectation in every way but a word of caution to diners (like me!) who are not caffeine tolerant.

Caution: Indulge in this delightful dessert and risk losing sleep for most of the night!

Coppola Family Pizzeria & Wine Bar [Non-Halal] is located at No. 1 Jalan Hijauan 3, Horizon Hills, 79100 Iskandar Puteri.

It has indoor air-conditioned and outdoor al fresco dining sections as well as a bar to enjoy wines, beers or cocktails.

Opening hours 12pm to 3pm [Lunch] and 5.30pm to 12am [Dinner] on weekdays.

Open from 12pm to 12am on Saturday and Sunday. Closed on Monday.

For Reservations or takeaways, Tel: + 607 – 509 5527 or +6016 – 761 5824.

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