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Boston Restaurant Week: Sportello

7.March 2011

This is shaping up to be a good food week so far.  Tonight, a cooking class at Sofra – more on that later, and yesterday we went to Sportello, over in Fort Point and had a really spectacular meal.  That restaurant is so pitch perfect – it’s casual and friendly, totally approachable, but the food is held to such a high, creative, epicurean standard.

The waitstaff is unfailingly friendly and extremely knowledgable – an example: we asked about a rosé that we had had in the Summer and the waiter not only found us a bottle (it wasn’t still on the list), but also told us about how that wine comes from one particular section of one particular slope of one particular hill in Sicily and why this rosé is better suited to Winter foods than a Summery rosé would be.  And all of this was about a wine that wasn’t even on the list!  And when asked about which pasta dish on the menu he would recommend, he actually ranked them and described each dish in detail.  It was pretty amazing.

What my partners in crime ate: They all opted for the Restaurant Week menu, starting with a White Bean Soup.  They then moved on to a variety of entrees: Striped Bass en papillote, Pork Shoulder with clams, and a divine Orichiette with a subtly Moroccan-tasting lamb ragout (heavy on the cinnamon, in a good way).  And they ended with Flourless Chocolate cake and a cookie plate (which was a thing of beauty).

What I ate: I actually steered my way off the Restaurant Week menu and opted for a starter and pasta from the regular menu (which, together, came to $3 less than the 3-course Restaurant Week menu – and my soup portion was bigger than the Restaurant week soup portions – that’s where they make up the cost!).  I started with the Spicy Tomato Soup with Caraway grilled cheese, which was just exactly as delicious as I remember it being from last August (we celebrated our anniversary at Sportello, as you might recall).

The magical things about this soup are the subtle spiciness and the smooth texture and the drizzle of olive oil on top – I may have mentioned this before, but the OLIVE OIL at this place is amazing.  I asked in August and was told that the oil they use for drizzling and bread dipping is Aria (another extremely knowledgeable and helpful waiter told us that).  It’s got an intensely fruity and almost sweet flavor that seems to enhance the flavor of everything on the menu.

My entree was Agnolotti filled with smoked potato (you could taste the smoke! the pasta was perfectly al dente! the potatoes were smooth, but not gummy!) and topped with a buttery sauce of hedge hog and black trumpet mushrooms with monte veronese cheese.  I don’t have anything to say about this except that it might be my new favorite thing in the world.  Or, you know, the last meal I’d like to eat before I die.  Choose your favorite cliched phrase of hyperbolic appreciation and I’m sure it will fit.

I opted not to order a dessert (hello, not rich and had already ordered a bottle of wine that I couldn’t really afford!), but our lovely waiter had already answered some questions for me about a particular buttermilk tart and brought me one gratis.  It was delicious.  Thick biscuit crust with a beautiful maple buttermilk custard filling, topped with roasted bananas in a light caramelly sauce and a big dollop of thick, sweet, vanilla-y whipped cream (I actually suspect there was some mascarpone or something whipped into the cream – it was too good and too thick to be just cream).

That’s what sets places like this apart. They know their margins and they know that they’re well served to be generous.  Little treats like a free dessert (or downstairs at Drink, free tastes of fancy gin and milk punch) will keep me coming back again and again and will make me tell everyone I know (hello, everyone!) that it’s a great eating experience.

And that’s what it really comes down to – Sportello is a great eating experience.  The ambiance, the service, the fact that you can chat with the chefs about what in the hell a CARDOON is while you’re eating, and the food all conspire to create, for me, a perfect restaurant experience.

In short, go there. Now.

Cardoons: your guess is as good as mine.

14 Comments leave one →
  1. Jess permalink
    7.March 2011 23:01

    scurrying off to make a res. i will be copying exactly what you ordered. thank you, trustworthy goddess of tasty things.

    • Darby O'Shea permalink*
      7.March 2011 23:03

      Oh, do. You won’t regret it. Also, be VERY sure to go directly down to the basement to DRINK for a … well, a drink. Did you know that you can call ahead and they’ll make a punchbowl for you and your friends? Simply amazing.

  2. 8.March 2011 09:15

    Great post! We can’t wait to try Sportello! Brian says that the wine you were talking about is distributed by a specific distributor that he knows, but oddly enough, it is not listed in their catalog. Bit of a mystery as to how it found it’s way to you. He’s tracing the path now in the hopes of finding this wine ( we want to try it too.)

    Also, if I may be so bold, your comment sparked some creativity in my brain. Might I suggest a topic for a blog post? You mentioned “your dying meal.” I too have a favorite “deathbed meal” and I would be willing to bet many of your readers do as well. Perhaps in honor of the upcoming “Day of the Dead,” your readership might be interested in submitting recipes/meal suggestions for their dying meals?

    • Jamie permalink
      8.March 2011 18:08

      Can we get the wine?? I would really like to get more of that wine….

      • Darby O'Shea permalink*
        8.March 2011 21:27

        Seriously. Need more.

    • Darby O'Shea permalink*
      8.March 2011 21:29

      Oh Mandy, a good suggestion. I mulled and mulled this afternoon and, when put hard to it, I couldn’t decide what my last meal would be. Maybe I’ll put feelers out and see if I can get input and maybe try to whip up a post on this VERY topic by October for Dia de los Muertos!

  3. 8.March 2011 18:05

    Cardoons (or cardon, in French, cousin to the chardon, or thistle, as well as the artichoke) are grown in the Potager du Roi, Versailles. They are really lovely, a nice artichokey spring flavor. The stems are the yummy part. They are most frequently served steamed. Ideally the stems are tender, with just a hint of potato-like mealiness, not too stringy.

    I plan to grow them in my garden someday, as they are not only delicious, but also a vegetable of distinguished, if a bit prickly, decorative form.

    • Darby O'Shea permalink*
      8.March 2011 21:27

      Silly me. Should have just asked our local horticulturist! Good information!

  4. 11.March 2011 16:47

    May I be totally clueless and just confirm that hedge hog is a kind of mushroom…?

    Really wanting to celebrate with dinner at Sportello sometime soon. Sounds absolutely amazing.

    • Darby O'Shea permalink*
      23.March 2011 09:45

      HA. Yes, hedge hog IS a mushroom. A delicious mushroom.

  5. Christine permalink
    13.March 2011 12:25

    When I’m in the city, I also want to have dinner at Sportello.

    • Darby O'Shea permalink*
      23.March 2011 09:44

      We will. It’s on the list of places to take every visitor from now on. When are you coming?


  1. Humdrum Summer Lazy Food: Spicy Tomato Soup with Crispy Grilled Cheese « Darby O'Shea
  2. Striped Bass en papillote -

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