Today, we had lunch at Sportello, in Boston's Fort Point neighborhood. Sportello is the newest in James Beard Award winner Barbara Lynch's empire. We've had (or at least I've had) a hankering to eat at a Lynch restaurant for a while. But, B&G Oysters is too expensive; No. 9 Park is too intimidating (the kind of place I expect Mitt Romney to eat at while he explores new and more devious ways to make his election to public office the worst thing to ever happen to America, nee Massachusetts); and on and on. When I heard that Babs was opening up a more casual, inexpensive Italian lunch counter, I had to try it.
And, we weren't disappointed. Sportello's space is gorgeous (if a bit out of the way and hard to find parking around), located on the floor above Drink. Floor-to-ceiling windows and a classic white counter put me at ease instantly, and gave me an excuse to people watch (both other patrons and street traffic) while I ate. The kitchen's right next to the counter. Overall, I got the sense that Sportello's a casual place, with transparent cooking and easy food. There's also a bakery and retail section, which I feel the restaurant could have done without.
The server brought us bread with a spread of marscapone cheese, fig preserves, olive oil and sea salt. It was amazing. The sea salt was a surprising taste, but it really set off the fig preserves just right. For our actual lunches, I ordered a $17 pasta dish: strozzapreti with braised rabbit and green olives. This was my first try at rabbit, and it was worth every penny - homemade pasta (at least, I think/assume it was homemade), dressed with braised, pulled rabbit and perfect green olives. It was hearty, tangy, and comforting, and the rabbit lent a perfect texture to the dish. The rabbit was almost the texture of pulled pork, if that makes any sense. Sorry, Bugs. Meanwhile, Amanda ordered a dish whose name escapes me now - but essentially, it was flat bread with roasted tomatoes and fresh ricotta cheese on it, and it probably wasn't worth the $17 it cost (although, the roasted tomatoes were the best I've ever had - soft, juicy, and a little spicy).
We opted out of dessert, since we were very full. But the options looked good - in particular, there was a pistachio torta with meyer lemon and marscapone flavors that I wouldn't mind making another go at.
This is a restaurant we'll definitely be back to. I was especially happy to see Chef Lynch on the premises today, greeting customers and keeping a watchful eye. Sportello's only open for lunch now (it just opened a few days ago), but the maitre'd told me that the restaurant will be open for dinner soon. This is the kind of place Boston needs more of: serious, good, well-thought out food, but in an atmosphere that's casual and approachable.