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Sportello

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  • Amend Feb 6, 2009 05:49 PM
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We're just back from a dinner at Sportello ... what a disappointment! Premium prices for bland food and a noisy cramped atmosphere that does not encourage lingering. Our bill for $140 for 2 people, including wine and tip, would have bought a far superior meal at Benatti or Oleana. We felt that the prices were exorbitant for the quality: the chestnut bisque was flavorless (not a flavor of chestnuts in sight), the bigoli (clam and sea urchin pasta) was bland and had no evidence of sea urchin, and the ricotta gnudi was underpowered. Altogether the food was underseasoned and extremely mediocre. The only dish that was worth its price were the braised short ribs. Anywhere else they would not be a standout, but here they easily beat any other dish we ate. We left feeling ripped off ... there are so many other better options that have left us feeling sated and satisfied after spending the same or less. Skip Sportello.

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  1. I agree that the prices are a bit much, but I really liked that bigoli dish; it was loaded with clams and uni when I got it. Pretty simple but really good.

    1. Surprised to hear about bigoli and the ricotta gnudi. I had both last week and loved them. The bigoli had a healthy amount of sea urchin and was very good. The gnudi was amazing, primarily because the ricotta was the best I've ever had. They make it in house and tasted very fresh and just perfect.

      The prices did surprise me at first, considering you're sitting at a counter. But I think that's mainly because in Boston going out is a formal event and we expect white linens, lots of well-dressed staff, etc. I like that they're doing great food in a low-key atmosphere. $22 for their gnocchi is a bargain and sometimes it's nice to not have the pomp and circumstance. I hope other restaurants follow.

      1. I went for the first time about 2 months ago and had the Strozzapreti with braised rabbit and olives. It was one of the best pasta dishes I have ever had - perfectly al dente pasta, tender and flavorful rabbit, a nice zing from the olives, and a deliciously salty sauce of butter and pasta water.

        I went back last month and ordered it again because I loved it so much.. Still ok flavorwise, but nothing like the first time. They changed the specific pasta shape (now longer and thinner) and overcooked it. The rabbit was tasty but three small bones made their way into the dish. There were fewer olives, and the sauce consisted of about 1/4 cup of melted butter - too heavy and greasy.

        Both times I've gone, however, I've found the wine to be very well-chosen and reasonably priced.

        The Il Brecciarolo for $35 was incredible. I haven't seen it in local stores (well, I haven't looked closely), but sources on the internets show a retail price of $15. I'm happy with that markup.

        4 Replies
        1. re: DoubleMan

          No complaints about the wine list and its prices. But no evidence of sea urchin in our bigoli. It reminded me somewhat of a dish I've eaten in Rome, but this was bland and underpowered by comparison. And the chestnut bisque, as I described above, was utterly flavorless, one of the most underwhelming dishes I've eaten in a while. Altogether Benatti is infinitely superior.

          1. re: Amend

            I thought the baked stuffed maccheroni was really delicious. Maybe it's a better deal for lunch rather than dinner? Haven't been back for a second look yet, so I can't comment on any decline, but $140 for two is steep for what amounts to a lunch counter type place.

            1. re: PorkTerrine

              I agree, Sportello is much more of a lunch venue. Like all of BL's places (other than 9 Park), it is overpriced....from my perspective.

              1. re: stradacouple

                I think lunch is a much better bet than supper at Sportello, both in terms of ambiance and pricing.

        2. I have had amazing chestnut bisque, wild mushroom gnoochi, and the best swordfish I've ever eaten at Sportello - it is pricy, but I keep going back because it's been consistently good - sorry to hear it sounds like it may be slipping (Barbara was there for 3 of 4 initial visits -2 lunches and 2 dinners) - hope they'll recover appropriately. The bolognese (salty and generally bland) and the tiramisu (high quality mascarpone overload and not much else) were disappointments that I would not order again, by the way...

          1. I have to agree about Sportello, though I think Barbara may be spreading herself to these days. The food at No.9 has slipped over the past few months as has the food in the South End. And don't get me started about Drink, there is another thread devoted entirely to that. I do wish I could get a martini when I feel like it. Perhaps she just does not have enough time to oversee all her restaurants and with the lack of culinary talent in this city she is having a hard time filling her kitchens. That being said I am looking forward to her new concept open in the Fort Point. should make for an interesting addition to our neighborhood.

            2 Replies
            1. re: curlyq7493

              A note on No. 9 Park...we were there at the end of December and were really disappointed with the food. Service, ambiance, cheese, wine were great but almost all of my dishes were too salty. And I love salt! We left feeling "meh" which was sad since we had heard such great things...

              1. re: Suze123

                We have been fans of 9 Park for years. However, our last visit also felt a little off relative to the food. Nothing specific, the food was good, just not as amazing as usual. Service was great and I think they do some of the best cheese service in the city. Barbara had been "branching out" a lot of late, but I'd give them another try.

            2. Bump!

              Squeezed in late tonight after a surprise opportunity to escape the little ones arose at the last minute. Dishes were hit and miss, which may explain the range of reactions.

              Sunchoke soup with brown butter was worthwhile, but somewhat timid, nothing to get excited about, and -- though it pains me to even mention such a thing -- served way too hot. Like, lawsuit hot. This was frustrating less for the wait required to render it edible (nearly ten minutes), and more for the fact even once it had cooled enough not to scald you, it was still too hot purely from a flavor standpoint. The soup's character didn't really come out until it had cooled quite a bit more.

              Pork tonnato was a little more interesting -- beautiful little tangles of thinly sliced moist, pink, chilled pork with shaved fennel, olive oil, bits of toasted nut and the tonnato sauce. A little light on the tonnato for my tastes, and I'm not convinced pork is an improvement over the traditional veal, but a nice, refreshing dish.

              My corn risotto with chanterelles and pancetta was very disappointing. I don't mean to suggest that risotto must always be overly rich and creamy, but they seemed to be shooting for something unusually light, which would have been fine if the corn flavor were more intense. They must've used a VERY light vegetable stock, which made it feel less like risotto and more like wet rice. The little pop of fresh corn kernels was nice, salty, crispy pancetta was a nice touch, but generally speaking, the dish was just flat. If it's made with a really strong corn stock, maybe this is a different story. That's what I'd change if I were trying to reverse-engineer it, anyway.

              My wife's pasta, however, was really excellent. Mustard green agnolotti in a lamb broth with chunks of lamb, fava beans and braised lettuce. The agnolotti were lovely, but frankly, you could have removed them from the bowl and gone at the rest with a chunk of crusty bread and it would have been just as good. The dish soared on a fantastic lamb jus that filled the bottom half inch of the bowl. Another very light dish, but unlike the risotto, this was lighter fare that still packed a punch in the flavor department. One of the best lamb dishes I've had in quite some time, actually.

              If I'd just had the lamb, I'd be gushing and going back tomorrow. If I'd just had the risotto, I'd never darken their door again. An inconsistent menu seems to be the problem.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Dmnkly

                sometime back I ordered a pasta dish there (can't recall exactly which one) which was so bland and tasteless I sent it back and asked them whether they could do something with it...to their credit they did fix it up (they claimed it was a new line cook who "wasn't familiar with the menu")