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At five years, Sportello reinvents itself

Essdras M. Suarez/Globe Staff

Small plates, soups, pastas, and Italian wines are served from a happy open kitchen.

Where to Fort Point’s Sportello, Barbara Lynch’s reinvented restaurant next door to Menton. Sportello used to sell baked goods and sandwiches, but in November it underwent a fifth-anniversary makeover to focus solely on trattoria-inspired Italian dishes.

What for Small plates, soups, pastas, and Italian wines served from a happy open kitchen, and consumed at long white rectangular counters.

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The scene Monk’s Cafe from “Seinfeld” as imagined by John Cheever. There are a lot of ascots, cashmere, and shaved receding hairlines in the room. Carefully coiffed women with swan necks and clanging jewelry perch counter-side, scooping shallow bowls of pasta. Natty men clink dainty cups of espresso and share desserts. Patrons lucky enough to score actual tables — there are just a few — fidget with smartphones, wedding rings, and purses.

Essdras M Suarez/Globe staff

Inside Fort Point’s Sportello.

What you’re eating Tomato soup spiked with chili flakes. Rich slabs of duck liver crostini dotted with red kuri squash. Half or full portions of pasta, such as tagliatelle in a comforting
Bolognese, topped with a tangle of Parmesan, or garganelli with red pepper, Italian sausage, and pecorino. Chocolate torta with peanut butter mousse. Maybe even a complimentary dish of whipped ricotta, if you chat up a waiter.

Care for a drink? The wine list focuses on small growers from Italy’s 19 provinces. Servers are knowledgeable and happy to advise on pairings. There’s also nonalcoholic house-made limeade and lemonade, plus Americano, cappuccino, latte, and a very potent espresso.

Overheard A raven-haired young woman complains about the size of her shower while her dining companion smiles knowingly. “It’s standing-room only!” she shudders. Colleagues set aside paperwork to assess the dessert menu. “I can’t stand coconut. What’s the next best thing to coconut? Peanut butter? Chocolate?” one wonders. “Oh, definitely chocolate — and peanut butter,” says another. A well-tailored chap who resembles a young Leonard Nimoy barks, “248! I said 248!” into a smartphone with a clipped British accent, then confesses to his seatmate, “He’s the kind of man who just cuts right through the [expletive].” Two cashmere-clad men gossip about a mutual friend over beers: “He was like, ‘Stop what you’re doing right now and read my 30-page dissertation!’ And I’m like, ‘Absolutely not.’ ”
A prim man in a suit makes an “oh no you didn’t” gesture to his companion. A waiter bounces from counter to counter, grieving for the missing bakery case. “For a fat guy like me, there’s no more instant gratification!”

348 Congress St., Fort Point, Boston, 617-737-1234, www.sportelloboston.com

Kara Baskin can be reached at kcbaskin@gmail.com
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