Since arriving in Belfast in 2012, Coppi has single handedly turned the city’s expectations of quality Italian food on its head. Pioneering the cichetti – the Venetian style of small plated tapas – Coppi takes its name from the famous cyclist – Angelo Fausto Coppi.

With a contemporary design merging New York-style subway tiles, aged wood and moody lighting, the bustling city eatery has become an integral part of Belfast Cathedral’s cultural hub in St Anne’s Square and the city’s food scene. As with the restaurant’s namesake, the business is not one to stand still. Stephen Ferris is the operation’s Executive Chef, and there are big plans to grow revenue streams and develop the brand in 2024.

Brought up on a council estate in Lisburn, it was imperative for his family that Stephen could start earning as soon as he was old enough. Following school, Stephen didn’t waste any time getting a job at a local café where his kitchen odyssey began making pasta dishes, lasagne, and tray bakes. From there he moved to a busy bar and grill in the city, while completing his level 2 & 3 in Hospitality & Catering at Southeast Regional College.

“I was lucky that a few chefs saw something in me and encouraged me to go to college and get my qualifications,” says Stephen. “I actually completed the three-year course in two years, so the principal wrote me an incredible reference that really helped to open doors.”

After completing his college course at the age of 18, Stephen spent the next six years learning from some of the best chefs in Northern Ireland including Jim Mullholland at the Ballyrobin Country Lodge, John Paul Leake and Patrick Leonard at The Merchant Hotel and Gordon McGladdery at The Fitzwilliam.

Stephen joined Coppi 6 years ago as Head Chef. “On joining Coppi, it was quite daunting to be honest. I had plenty of experience of top-quality restaurants and kitchens, which were generally French influenced, but I had never specialised in Italian before. I also went from working in a kitchen with one chef to having 17 chefs underneath me. Thankfully the Executive Chef at the time, Jonny Phillips, was amazing. He’s a director at Coppi now but he took me under his wing, and I quickly fell in love with the company, the mantra, the close-knit team, and the food.”

“We make everything from scratch each day, we source locally and the cichetti’s sharing ethos, drinks menu and restaurant design means it’s always a buzzing place to work. We source locally wherever possible, but every great kitchen needs a great store cupboard and Country Range is a crucial part of ours. The selection of nuts are top quality and fantastic value for money, as are the seasonings and spices.”

“The business also appreciates people and invests in them, meaning we have a brilliant team that’s more like a big family. Thanks to these foundations and the fantastic reputation we have generated in the last decade, I’m very excited about 2024. With it being my first year as Executive Chef, I have some big plans to grow the Coppi brand and drive some additional revenue streams. Launching some of our own branded Coppi products such as dried pasta is just one of many ideas to keep an eye out for.”