Win/Fail Fridays: Yay for Sportello, Nay for Towne

Welcome to Win/Fail Fridays, where food editor Donna Garlough mouths off about her latest dining-out adventures.

This week’s WIN: Going gnudi at Sportello

It had been months since I’d been to Barbara Lynch’s casual Italian restaurant Sportello, so I was happy to find that the place is still running like a well-oiled machine. The service? Spot-on for the time of day (a crowded lunch hour) and setting (nearly all seats are at the counter) — i.e., speedy, matter-of-fact, and elegantly efficient.

And man, that ricotta gnudi: plump, gumball-sized dumplings dense enough to resist slightly with each bite, yet airy enough that you can down the entire portion without even thinking. And the zesty tomato sauce, basil, and crisp black olive croutons added just the right amount of tang and texture.

This week’s FAIL: Bread bummer at Towne

Lunching on the Towne patio last week, I wanted to hate the lobster Cobb. It was gorgeous, the components artfully arrayed on the plate: stripes of lettuce, lightly dressed lobster, red onion, hard-boiled egg, bacon, and blue cheese laid out in neat rows.

Problem is, when there’s exactly as much blue cheese as lettuce in the dish, it ain’t really a salad. Oh well; nobody orders a Cobb for the greens. I happily devoured it, ignoring the calorie count and enjoying every bacony bite. What ultimately peeved me, though, was the bread it came with: a pita-like puff that was probably terrific when it was just out of the oven, but which arrived cold and stale. We ordered up a bread basket to make up the difference; those rolls were dry and stale, too, and had not a wink of flavor.

That chef Lydia Shire is known for her breads — her old restaurant Biba had a famously great bread basket, and Scampo has a number of fresh breads on the menu — made these all the more disappointing.

Stay tuned for next week’s Win/Fail!