Not changing is kind of Boston’s thing, but the Seaport is a little different each time you visit. This can be unsettling. You might stumble upon a completely remade pier and fall into the harbor. You might get swept up in a crowd of conventioneers hunting for jalapeño poppers. Or a crane could fall on your head. The seaport is a risk, is what we’re saying.
In a neighborhood filled with unknowns, Sportello, an upscale restaurant on Congress Street, is a place you can rely on. This modern Italian spot is a respite from the Seaport’s national chain restaurants you don’t want and luxury condos you’re not allowed into.
Sportello is Italian, but not in the way of a red sauce joint that you need to be rolled out of when you’re done with your meal. The salads, antipasti, and entrees use a lot of seafood, poultry, and fresh vegetables, and many of the appetizers are on the lighter side. The pastas are more filling, but aside from the cream-bomb that is the lobster gnocchi, they’re manageable as well. None of it (with the exception of maybe the tagliatelle ragu) is destination food - but everything is well-executed. And as an added plus, you’ll leave here feeling pretty good. Maybe not as good as you would after a spin class, but you won’t smell as bad, and you’ll be able to walk the next day, so consider it a wash.
As you might expect from a place in this neighborhood, Sportello is open during lunch, when you’ll see plenty of lawyers, pharmaceutical executives, and tech bros that call the Seaport home from 9 to 5. With its corporate crowd and bright white space, the atmosphere can feel a little antiseptic, like a successful startup’s cafeteria or a doctor’s office. But it’s a more fun version of those places. Mostly because, instead of kids who cough on you in the waiting room, there are servers who bring you strozzapreti.
Even if you’re not in the power lunch set, though, you can have a good time here. Because most of its seating consists of stools snaking around two U-shaped counters, it’s even a good place to come by yourself. Eating alone can easily feel awkward in any setting other than a bar or a diner, but Sportello is a big exception.
Whether you’re excited about all the change in the Seaport or not, you’re going to find yourself in the area at some point. Once you get past the hoards of tourists posing in front of rainbow-colored seagulls and asking you to pronounce chowder for them, you should head straight for Sportello.
This is octopus, baby artichoke, Calabrian chili, lemon puree, and squid ink chips. It’s the appetizer equivalent of a supergroup, but unlike Cream or Temple of the Dog, you can get all the members in your mouth at the same time.
Almost more of a bisque than a soup, but we’re never going to complain about something being a bisque. Especially when it tastes like this.
It’s not bad, but hummus has already won the War of the White Beans, installed a puppet regime in Favastan, and is stripping the country of its natural resources.
Delicious worm-shaped pasta served with braised rabbit, olives, and rosemary. This is strangely refreshing, given it’s a pasta topped with meat. We could eat two orders in one sitting.
Too rich to finish on your own, thanks to the lobster and mushroom ragu. Get one for the table to share, or don’t plan on eating for the next couple of days.
It’s rare that a bolognese sauce doesn’t completely steal the show, but that’s the case here thanks to delicate egg noodles that fall apart on your tongue.
A little salty (in taste that is, though, since it was about to be eaten, probably in attitude, too).