Brian Konefal of Coppa Cafe in Flagstaff: "People Should Travel for Food"

Categories: Chef and Tell

Lauren Saria
Brian Konefal
Executive Chef/Co-owner
Coppa Cafe
1300 S. Milton Rd, Flagstaff

Considering that Coppa Cafe has been open for more than three years, it's pretty surprising how little attention the restaurant's received. There have been articles written in local media and even some national mentions, but on the whole, Coppa Cafe's following remains limited to northern Arizona diners.

And that's too bad, because the food here is really, really good.

The fact that the cozy, European-style restaurant is located in a generic Flagstaff strip mall is probably to blame. But chef and co-owner Brian Konefal believes good food -- and yes, his food -- is worth the drive.

"People should travel for food," Konefal says.

See also: 7 Things to Eat and Drink in Flagstaff

That idea is just part of the European mentality the chef picked up during his years spent living and working in Italy and Spain. After earning a degree in Spanish from Northern Arizona University, Konefal sold his car, took out a loan, and headed to Italy to enroll in culinary school. It was there that he met his future wife, Brazilian-born Paola Fioravanti, who co-owns Copppa Cafe and is the restaurant's pastry chef.

The couple spent the next two years knocking around Europe, both working in Michelin-starred kitchens before heading back to the states. They landed in San Francisco, where Konfel met and began working under Michelin-starred chef Daniel Humm, now of Eleven Madison Park in New York. Though Humm was only three years his senior, Konefal credits the chef as being "the man who taught him how to cook."

Konefal spent six years working with Humm, eventually moving to New York to work as sous chef at EMP. The chef's next move brought the couple to Boston, where they opened Bina Osteria in 2008 as executive chef and pastry chef, respectively. The restaurant received rave reviews, but when the recession hit and the owners wanted Konefal to ease up and cut back, he resigned.

"I was so sick of working for other people," Konefal says, so he and Fioravanti decided to take some time off to decide what to do next.

Lauren Saria
Seared Foie Gras with Local Bolete Mushroom, Aged Balsamic, AZ Orange, Lavender, and Toasted Brioche

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Jesse Adams
Jesse Adams

not 2 hours while gas is 3.50 a gallon in my current truck.

KB Stir
KB Stir

Whoa .. Who's in to hit it Btw - I have a place to stay - plenty of room for a fun filled weekend

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