Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sportello: Come for Dinner, Stay for Dessert


I was eager to try Sportello, a new Italian counter cafe in South Boston (Fort Point area) after hearing Barbara Lynch speak at the Boston Book Festival (full presentation description and other presenters here). In fact, there was a special Zagat guide printed just for the event:


The more I hear about her and read about her, the more I like her! According to the book jacket of her latest book, Stir: Mixing It Up in the Italian Tradition, she grew up in housing projects in South Boston. She worked with Todd English, when he was 22, at Micheala's in Cambridge and worked with him for eight years. Someone there owned a farm in Tuscany and even though she had never left South Boston, Barbara went to Tuscany, Italy for three weeks to learn how to cook there. According to Corby Kummer, food writer and blogger for the Atlantic Monthly who moderated the talk, this is the only area in Italy which draws on the French tradition of extensive use of butter in cooking. Julia Child would be proud!

Here are some photos inside Sportello:







I've heard that the desserts were cheaper from the Sportello take-out counter and offered a wider variety, so I did just that. Here's what was sampled and recommended:

  • Fleur de Sel Dark Chocolate - Delicious, chocolatety flavor, nicely set off by small chunks of fleur de sel, the taste of which lingers on the palette long after you've finished and which is entirely pleasant.


  • Pumpkin Whoopie Pie - Delicious, highly recommend, two small cakes of pumpkin and spices surrounding a light, cream cheese frosting. I'm hoping these were based on the recipe from Brooklyn-based Baked's Cookbook, which retails at Sportello and I happily picked up.


  • Chocolate-Covered Butterscotch - Wow, just wow. Less than $5 (I think) and simply a treat, where rich dark chocolate mixes in with crunchy butterscotch.


  • Three-Layer Chocolate Cake - Fantastic and decadent. Somewhat complex three layer chocolate cake with chocolate ganache-inspired frosting and garnished with flecks of sea salt on top. Served with drizzled olive oil which enhances the decadent feel of this dessert. The flavors combine into a very complex taste; the sweet and salty combination will also stay on your palette long after you've finished the bite in the most pleasant of ways.


  • Coconut Brownie - As one sampler stated, and I quote, "It inspires a whole new relationship with food." 'Nuff said.


    Overall, I give Barbara Lynch much credit for creating chocolate desserts that actually taste like chocolate. It's something of a rarity these days to find chocolate, whether in cake, candy bar, or other form, that actually has a strong chocolate flavor. Often times the chocolate flavor is somewhat watered down by other ingredients such as milk, cocoa butter or other ingredients, which has the result of diluting the flavor. Anyone who has ever been excited to sample a piece of chocolate cake and been disappointed to not taste any chocolate is aware of this unfortunately dashed expectation. And to bite into a milk chocolate bar that has an overwhelming taste of milk opposed to chocolate, is also something I find disappointing (tasters of Guttiard chocolate may know what I mean). If, however, you are searching for a very light chocolate flavor [in a bath of milk] I imagine you absolutely love Guittiard chocolate.

    Will definitely be returning to Sportello!

    Sportello on Urbanspoon
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