Coppi's Italian Restaurant: A "Green" Business in Washington, DC

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This is a 3:55 excerpt from AMERICAN MOSAIC, April 9, 2009.

More and more restaurants across the United States are starting to cook with organic fruits and vegetables. Organic foods are grown without chemical fertilizers and insecticides. But one restaurant in Washington, D.C. has gone far beyond just buying organic food in its effort to be sustainable and healthy. Coppi's restaurant on U Street has become a good example in the community of how to operate a "green" business. Bob Doughty has more.

When you walk into Coppi's Italian restaurant, it looks like many other warm and lively eating places on the popular U Street corridor.

There are friendly waiters and hungry eaters enjoying food. But Coppi's is different from other restaurants because of the careful way it is managed by its owners, Carlos Amaya and his sister Nori.

CARLOS AMAYA: "Coppi's is a very unique, sustainable restaurant. The theme of it is of course, northern Italian, but the difference in maintaining a sustainable restaurant, meaning we have to source American products."

Almost all of the salads, pizzas, meats and pastas served at Coppi's are organic. Mr. Amaya buys seasonal foods from local producers who follow sustainable practices.

CARLOS AMAYA: "We've actually visited these farms to see exactly where everything comes from and the process, so you can understand it and explain it better to the clientele."

Mr. Amaya even buys the flour for his pastas from an American producer so that he does not have to import flour from as far away as Italy.

Also, all the electricity used at Coppi's is wind-generated so it does not cause pollution. And, all cooking in the kitchen is done with only two hot water boilers for pasta and a wood-burning oven. Most restaurants use large gas ovens and stoves which can be wasteful. The oak wood for the oven comes from an organic farm in Pennsylvania that collects old wood from fallen trees.

Other details are important to Coppi's green efforts. For example, the restaurant has very low lighting to conserve energy. And, the restaurant saves on water and energy by not using tablecloths.

Carlos Amaya was born in El Salvador. He started working at Coppi's in nineteen ninety-four. Over the years he worked many different positions in the restaurant. In two thousand two, he bought the restaurant from its owners.

CARLOS AMAYA: "By then, I had already developed my own idea of what sustainable was, and where it needed to go."

The former owners were interested in organic cooking. But Carlos Amaya knew he wanted to make the business even greener.  He says that owning Coppi's is a good example of the American Dream.

CARLOS AMAYA: "Here I am, and the unique thing about the United States and the American way of living is we have rights to own our own businesses and to actually lead by example."

Coppi's owners and visitors can feel good about the food they are making and eating because it is delicious, healthful and sustainably produced.

This program, including the parts that were edited out, was written by Caty Weaver and Dana Demange who was also the producer.