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No one can deny that Barbara Lynch, with her 7 restaurants (including a butcher shop and demonstration kitchen/cookbook store) is the queen of the Boston dining scene. I went to No. 9 Park for my 30th birthday, back when it was her flagship restaurant. Sure, I loved the famous prune & foie gras gnocchi, like the rest of the world, but nothing else lived up to the hype (or the price). It was in my pre-flogging days, but I remember my overall experience was a letdown.

The next year, I celebrated my 31st birthday at B&G Oyster – here’s what I wrote about that meal: “over-hyped, overpriced and disappointing.”

In 2010, Lynch opened Menton, her new temple to fine dining. R and I celebrated our anniversary there. I know, you would think at this point, I would avoid Lynch enterprises, but I felt I had to, for you, my loyal readers . I was glad I did, because my meal at Menton was magnificent with amazing service. But was it worth the hefty price tag? I wasn’t sure - probably not. I can have 100 Bahn Mi sandwiches for the same cost.

Undaunted, I put Sportello, on my 2011 list. Sportello, as the restaurant told me, not once, but twice, is Italian for counter service. It’s a sleek and modern room with large white wraparound counter and a handful of tables for those that don’t want to dine on stools. The website describes it as a “Modern interpretation of a diner…offers a menu of trattoria-inspired dishes.” I’ll translate that for you; Italian food served at a counter.

Steve and I started with the grilled calamari; the small clusters of tentacles and rings were lightly charred and extremely flavorful. It was served with the most flavorful hummus I’ve ever had. The only misstep was the al dente chickpea – attempts to pierce them with a fork resulted in the orbs shooting off the plate.

We had the tagliatelle Bolognese for a pasta course. I thought the sauce was meaty and flavorful, but the pasta was rolled extremely thin – too thin. It didn’t have nice toothsome chew I wanted. Steve commented that it was like the pasta wasn’t even there; “it might as well have been a big bowl of sauce.”

We had the seared duck breast and it was excellent; there was a perfectly crispy skin and so much flavor in the meat. We cleaned our plates and I think Steve wanted another order of duck, in lieu of dessert. I also loved our sides: roasted fingerling potatoes and braised kale. There is something about a bowl of bitter hearty greens that just speaks to my soul.

There is a bakery counter at Sportello and I was attempted by the array of cupcakes and cookies, but the sweet and salty chocolate cake won me over when our server told me that it there was salted caramel frosting between the layers. The cake was good, but not outstanding. It was served cold from the case; I think cake should be room temperature. And there wasn’t much caramel flavor. The sprinkling of sea salt over the slice was inconsistent, creating some super salty bites and some not salted at all bites. However, at $3, the cake was the bargain of the night, compared to the plated desserts from the menu, which ran around $8.

The bread was a sliced sesame studded bread. It was served with a fresh ricotta and jam spread. Our server was friendly, but inattentive towards the end of the meal. Steve was not impressed with his wine. I really enjoyed our meal. I’m impressive with how much flavor was packed in to everything, especially the proteins. Sportello is certainly my favorite Lynch restaurant to date – however I’m sure she plans on opening another one soon, and no doubt I’ll go there, too.

http://www.sportelloboston.com/

Food: A
Service: A-
Value: A-
Overall: A-

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