Hi there beloved readers. I’ve had a crazy week as you may be able to tell by my lack of blogging, but not to worry! I’m back and ready to share the nomz. The BF and I went on a date to Sportello (and Drink) for his birthday. Obviously I had been dying to check it out because it’s a Barbara Lynch restaurant and everything she touches turns to gold, plus I’ll use any excuse under the sun to go to Drink. Last October I tried a pork sandwich from Sportello at the Boston Local Food Festival and I haven’t been able to get it off my mind. The sandwich was excellent, the pork was tasty but it was the perfect Italian bread that really charmed me. The smell and fluffy texture with a not-too-crispy outer shell reminded me of dinners at my Grandma’s house growing up. That’s when I knew that Sportello was something special.
‘Sportello’ means ‘counter’ in Italian, and I didn’t realize until walking in that Sportello is like 75% countertop. The bright white counter with white and black stools zig-zags throughout the restaurant, giving all countertop seats a great view of the open kitchen. Logistically its genius, the servers can walk right straight from the kitchen to the customers in 2 seconds or less, which makes for attentive service (they are literally right next to you the entire time) and it gives them the ability to serve about 15 people each without taking any extra steps. Hmm, I wonder if they’re hiring.
The dinner started off with some of that previously mentioned Italian bread, which was as fabulous as I remembered it. It was served with an olive oil, ricotta and grape compote mixture that was sweet and creamy. We also got a bottle of Giuseppe Cortese Barbera D’Alba. It’s safe to say I was pretty overjoyed before the meal even started.
The gut-wrenching decision of spicy tomato soup (served with caraway grilled cheese) OR minestrone with spring vegetables took some time. Minestrone is my all time favorite soup, but Sportello’s tomato soup has gotten some serious recognition. Per our waitress’ suggestion, we went with the tomato, which they split it into two smaller bowls for us without even being asked (love). It was a very simple and non-creamy version of tomato soup with the perfect amount of spice. The grilled cheese was the thinnest GC I’ve ever seen, it was like a little toast with some cheese in the middle, but it paired perfectly with the soup and stayed crunchy after it was thoroughly soaked.
Next we tried the asparagus with ricotta, pine nuts and oregano. As you can see I started eating it before realizing I had yet to take a picture. This was served cold, which really surprised me, but once I got used to the temperature I really liked it. The asparagus must have been cooked before it was grilled because the texture was really tender. It was the most tender asparagus I’ve had that wasn’t at all overcooked.
We split the Strozzapreti with braised rabbit, picholine olives, and rosemary for an entree. I was a little nervous because I tried rabbit once before and didn’t like it, but the waitress once again confirmed the reviews I read by saying it was hands down the best pasta on the menu. I can’t speak for the other pastas but this was killer. The rabbit had a strong flavor that was balanced by the plain pasta and the olives paired perfectly. The briney olive flavor offset the rich, gamey flavor of the rabbit. The only complaint I had is that the olives were way too concentrated. One bite was really intense and the next wasn’t, if they were cut up and evenly distributed I think I would have enjoyed the dish more.
For dessert, the affogato. Ice cream and biscotti topped with espresso. This was like an espresso float, I loved it. The ice cream-soaked biscotti was falling apart in heavenly little crumbles that me think of Italy. And they gave us a free cupcake with a candle for the birthday. The raspberry frosting on the cupcake might have been the best frosting I’ve ever had. Actually, this was the best cupcake I’ve ever had, better than any cupcake shop I’ve been to in Boston. Quote me on that!
The service was casual yet attentive and helpful. Splitting dishes always makes me happy, especially when it’s soup. The casual Italian countertop dining setting is unique and fun. I would go back to Sportello in a heartbeat.
348 Congress Street
Boston, MA 02210