This past weekend, Adam and I attended the Boston Local Food festival. It was supposed to rain on and off all day so I was happy the weather actually held up for the most part of the afternoon. I think the fear of rain put off some people (or maybe how crowded it was last year!) so while it was still pretty crowded, at least you could see the end of the line to the vendors (and in many cases there was no line at all!). Anyways, I’m telling you this because snatching up a grilled pork belly with apple chutney sandwich from the Sportello booth was no problem at all. The sandwich was pretty nice but my favorite part was getting a little token for a free chocolate chip cookie, which we could get a few blocks away from the actual restaurant. Of course I made sure to stop by and claim what was rightfully mine!
Standing in front of the bakery counter, watching happy brunchers enjoying their meals, reminded me that I never actually blogged about our experience at Sportello back in July.
Photo by Boston Photojournalist Erik Jacobs
Our wedding anniversary happens to be on the same day as my dad’s birthday and also the weekend of 4th of July. Needless to say, there is a lot of eating happening during those few days. Since we went to Italy for our honeymoon, we also have a tradition of celebrating somewhere Italian. Keeping all of this in mind, this year we decided to keep things relatively casual (read: not too pricey) and Barbara Lynch’s Sportello seemed to fit the bill perfectly. [Last thing going for it is that it happens to be on my 30 by 30 list ]
On a Tuesday night, around 7:30pm, the restaurant was pretty deserted. I’ve seen pictures of the space before but in real life (possibly partially because it was empty), it seemed like we just came to a bakery to celebrate our anniversary dinner (there is in fact a bakery section to the right of the above picture). The large windows flooded the space with light, which made the space seem that much more casual. I did say we wanted things relatively casual. Casual we got.
It’s all right, I had high expectations for the food and was excited to finally try it. We hopped on the bar stools right by the open kitchen and made our beverage selections.
Whipped ricotta and stewed fruit with Italian bread
The whipped ricotta was rich and creamy but the bread did not excite me. I felt like I could get that at a supermarket. I saved room for what I hoped would be better things to come.
Salumi plate – robiola, peperonata, olives
A simple plate of fantastic salami and what I thought at the time was the best brie of my life. Looking at the description now I see it was in fact robiola, which wikipedia tells me is a softened Italian cheese (of course!) made with varying proportions of cow’s, goat’s milk and sheep milk. I loved how soft and creamy it was without any stink that I’ve experienced with stronger brie. Even the little breadsticks (grissini) seemed more flavorful that usual (house-made?).
Adam ordered the spicy tomato soup with caraway grilled cheese
He enjoyed the flavorful soup (I tried it, good stuff) but the cracker on top does not grilled cheese-make. I’m all for creativity but that’s just false advertising
For my entrée, choosing the ricotta gnudi with tomato, basil, black olives croutons was a non-brainer.
I’ve only had gnudi at Pazzo (which has since closed, tear) and was shocked at how fluffy and airy those pillows of ricotta-goodness were. The gnudi at Sportello did not resemble those at all. They were a lot smaller in size and in fact seemed pretty firm – a lot heavier than even my homemade gnocchi which I made just days prior (too much flour?). I’m going to cut to the chase here – I wasn’t that impressed. My favorite part of the dish was the tiny olive croutons you may be able to spot in the pictures. I picked every one out and thought it was a really fun and creative twist on an otherwise very classic dish.
Adam pretty much licked his plate clean (he got the polenta bolognese of sorts – sorry I don’t remember the details, it’s obviously been a while) but I once again thought this was too classic and unexciting for a Barbara Lynch spot (with prices to match!).
Ice cream sandwich – chocolate gelato, chewy chocolate cookie
Overall we left the dinner pretty disappointed. I think a very large part of it was the ambiance, which just did not match what we need for an anniversary night (totally our fault although most online pictures make the space look cozier than it is) and then high expectations for a hyped up spot further just lead to unmet expectations. I loved the open kitchen concept and think that on a busier night the space could be buzzing with more excitement and perhaps take a life of its own (like at Barbara Lynch’s B&G Oysters). What we experienced was more fitting for a brunch/lunch spot. Simple food with quality ingredients in a modern space. Don’t expect anything beyond that.
Ever been to a place that was just wrong for the occasion? Have you been to Sportello? Any other Barbara Lynch restaurant? Thoughts?
PS – Adam and I are going to New Orleans this coming weekend. Any not-to-be missed dining spots or any other suggestions for us?