Our group of six moved purposely into Sportello a couple of nights ago, Barbara Lynch’s latest addition to her standout group of Boston eateries.
Hosting dinner at Sportello for out of town guests on my first visit felt safe.
I knew the space was invented to provide superior service and included twists (our New England Home contributing editors and prominent force in the Boston design trade, Cheryl and Jeffrey Katz, designed the concept as well as Lynch’s overly inviting bar, Drink, that sits below the restaurant) such as accessible stool and counter space, but our reservation had us at the one and only table in the otherwise fully counter style, glass case, luncheonette layout. So count on stools, or reserve early. My guests and I had that look of quizzical doubt, but soon the menu and courses arrived and the entire evening soared. Lynch’s pastas were superlative and the simple, ingredient driven menu delivered strong and interesting flavors.
The wine list was all Italian, but pleasingly focused on value. We began with the 2005 Produttori del Barbaresco which sells for about $30 at retail and has received excellent critical review. It offered the wonderful earthy, herby, and spicy nose I expect in nebiolo from Piedmont, but as usual for me, the attributes are offset by a missing middle fruit component that I yearn for in most Barolos and Barbarescos. It’s a personal bias, and others will like this wine very much, just not me. It was one of the most expensive wines on the list at $76.
I have had so many delicious value wines from Sardinia, and am intrigued by island produced wine so I chose the 2006 Mesa Carignano Del Sulcis Buio next. At $38 on the list it was a steal. 100% carignano fruit, it’s earthy, smoky, and black cherry stuff were in full view. I have subsequently learned that the Sulcis appellation is one of Sardinia’s most highly regarded ones. I suspect you can buy this wine at retail for under $20 and it is well worth it.
Hard work paid off, and the wine of the night finally arrived. Moving on to Puglia, the 2005 Longo Cacc’e Mitte di Lucera was spectacular. I can’t recall the list price and believe the 2006 is now on the market in the $20 range at retail. It was fantastic with currant and red fruit flavors with solid backbone and fullness. It blew me away and completed the progression of good to great wine over one amazing meal!