Monday, March 22, 2010

Sportello


We made plans to visit Sportello for Restaurant Week with our friends Gretchen and Derek, and Drink just so happened to draw us in for an aperitif.
A Monday night out is a lovely way to start off the work week. 
It wasn't the perfect weather for a stroll, but I think the city is beautiful, even in the drizzle and fog. It looks kind of mysterious, yes?
We meandered down into the subterranean space that houses Drink and found our friends already settled in at the bar with some cocktails. Much to my surprise, Drink does not have a drink menu. The changeable letter board is the closest thing to it.
Astrological signs that tell you what drink to order?! This excited me. Alas, the true concept here is to tell the bartender what you like or are in the mood for and they will craft you a cocktail. I started with the facts: I like vodka. She pretty much read my mind from there. This is one of those scenarios where I believe it is essential to have an open mind and trust the bartender will take good care of you. While I was prepared a Moscow Mule with muddled lime and ginger beer, she explained this was the first vodka drink ever invented. The combination was new and enticing to me - three ingredients I love, but have never had all together. 
This cocktail tasted just like she read my mind. Lately, I've been putting my feelers out there for a drink that isn't too sweet. The dirty martini always works, but that stands in a caliber all it's own. This is it. 
As our reservation time approached we made our way upstairs to Sportello, which is the Italian word for 'counter service. Here we were greeted by retro globe light fixtures that hung evenly over a shiny white lacquered counter top zig-zagging throughout a clean stylish space.

We were lead to the back corner of the room and seated at a long common table in front of the contemporary floor to ceiling windows and right next to the bustling open kitchen. First, we decided on a bottle of the featured restaurant week red - Perrini Negroamaro ($32) from Puglia, Italy.
From Southern Italy or "the boot" this organic red wine is full of deep berry and ripe plums flavors balanced with a hint of limestone. 
Fresh baked bread was served with a creamy ricotta cheese and olive oil laced spread, topped with syrupy soaked apricots.
I had three slices. Good thing I didn't hold back on the bread basket, because the courses themselves are quite small. For my appetizer I chose the Smoked Salmon.
The salmon was beautifully prepared, its smokiness balanced by the bright, clean flavors of the creme fraiche and celery root. This was a refreshing first course that I appreciated didn't leave me feeling heavy as I awaited my entree.
The boys both had the Baby Mixed Greens with mustard vinaigrette, walnut creme and rye croutons.
In fact, the boys had the same of every course. There are only two options for each so the decisions are fairly easy ones to make. I figured I could not go wrong with the Pork Belly with a fennel and parsnip salad and salsa verde. Again, the entree portions are modest in size, however bold in flavor. This delicate slice was perfectly executed . The subtly sweet fennel and parsnips along with the fresh salsa verde emulsion were nice compliments to the rich savory pork.
Gretchen loved her pasta dish of Raffetta with roasted eggplant, pancetta and a goat cheese fondu.
Adam and Derek seemed to enjoy their Crispy Duck Leg as well, served with polenta cake, beet greens and duck jus. With clean flavors and delectably tender duck, again this was a success taste wise but I couldn't help but wonder if they were still hungry!
We were offered coffee before dessert was served, I chose an espresso.
The dessert course - in typical fashion was the Cookie Plate for the guys,
and the Chocolate Walnut Torta with salted caramel for the girls.
While it did not blow me away, this was still delicious and I ate every last bite. I am not a huge fan of walnuts so perhaps that swayed my affections.
Another highlight of the evening was being able to observe the happenings in the kitchen.
Sportello embodies the characteristics of a classic Italian trattoria with a modern twist; its energetic atmosphere, less formal counter style dining and a modest presentation of superb food make for a unique and fun occasion.
Barbara Lynch was no where in site, but her creative vision seems to resonate in every aspect of the experience.
I've gotten my Sportello dinner fix - but I have big plans to return and sit at the counter top for lunch. And I definitely need more of Drinks cocktails and psychic mixologists in my life ASAP.
Sportello on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Rabia's

Specializing in Italian and Mediterranean cuisine, Rabia's is a North End gem located on bustling Salem Street. Divided into two rooms, the first is intimate and enchanting, where a lush vine canopy envelops the cavernous space and strands of white lights twinkle throughout. 
A polished mahogany raw bar backed by exposed white brick is situated in the second room, where dark orange walls climb with strange tree like structures. Interesting artifacts, such as a heavy antler chandelier, looks more like it belongs in a ski lodge. The two separate dining spaces don't seem to mesh accordingly. (Edited to note - this dining room has since been re-decorated.) 

Despite the second dining room meets raw bar being in need of an update, Rabia's excels in the kitchen, with fresh pasta courses and stunning seafood plates. They offer a plethora of classic Italian appetizers in addition to numerous daily specials. Wines by the glass and bottle are mostly classic Italian, with a few California wines as well. Our waitress was happy to recommend the Mark West Pinot Noir ($33). 
Starting with a salad off the specials menu, a warm spinach base is piled with beets, roasted red peppers, portabello mushrooms, prosciutto and a heaping portion of goat cheese with a balsamic dressing. Blissful bites are yours to attune, the sweetness lent from the beets and the creamy goat cheese contrasted nicely with the saltiness of the prosciutto and the sharp and tangy mushrooms and red peppers. 
Homemade pastas delight and at reasonable price points, starting with a fall favorite, the Butternut Squash and Pumpkin Ravioli ($18) bathing in a creamy Gorgonzola sauce drizzled in a balsamic reduction glaze.
This dish was savory with hints of sweetness and most importantly lots of comforting fall flavors. The handmade hexagon shaped ravioli was cooked perfectly and added a tasteful element to the presentation. Pesce dishes are also a hit, the Risotto alla Pescatore ($24) boasts shrimps, scallops, clams, calamari, and mussels sauteed with shallots in a garlic white wine sauce and served over creamy risotto.Here is my Mom and I at an early dinner. Cheers!And here's the ladies and I on a separate occasion. Everyone loved their meals. 
My entree this time was chosen off the specials menu and consisted of Chicken Medallions and Potato Ravioli in a Gorgonzola cream sauce with roasted butternut squash and figs. They have clearly got me hooked on that Gorgonzola cream sauce. The piping hot butternut squash and figs added sweet flavors to the dish, which left me full and satisfied. 
And behold another fantastic seafood choice, the Frutti de Mare al forno ($27) with lobster, shrimp, scallops and squid in a light lemony cream sauce. 
The warm, friendly and accommodating waitstaff never linger too long but were always close by, keeping the wine glasses full and the bread and fresh grated Parmesan cheese in abundance. I often recommend Rabia's for consistently good food and service. With an inventive pesce menu and pastas handmade fresh daily; the food is comforting and the dishes are well executed. The intimate setting, though a few odd artifacts here and there, would be ideal for a date. And as you've seen pictured, just as ideal to catch up with Mom or the ladies.

73 Salem Street
Boston, MA 02113
Rabia's Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato