El Gringo, the newest member of the eastside food empire run by the El Chile guys, was recently shut down and reconstructed as Stortini, swapping a sort of Mexican/Southern home-cooking menu for Italian. I’m not sure why they made the change—they seemed to be doing a good business in their previous incarnation. Perhaps the Italian menu lets them lower their unit costs, or perhaps the old menu was too hard for people to pigeonhole.

Regardless of why, Gwen and I are a fan of all the El Chile places, and finally got around to trying Stortini on Saturday night.

We started with an appetizer of calamari and a dinner salad. The calamari was somewhat oily and way, way too salty. Even Gwen, a notorious salt fiend, felt it was way too salty. Enoteca Vespaio does a neat trick of serving its calamari in a paper cone, which soaks up some oil. At Stortini, the calamari was in a bowl, swimming in its oil. Every restaurant serving calamari would do well to copy Vespaio’s trick.

The salad had good ingredients, but was waterlogged with dressing. And every table gets a basket of bread with white-bean paste, which was OK.

We wound up waiting unaccountably long for our pasta dishes. I had rigatoni with meatballs, Gwen had papardelle with portobello and three other kinds of mushrooms in a cream sauce (which our waitress volunteered was her favorite thing on the menu). My dinner was fine: a pretty basic kind of dish, competently prepared, with the whole thing being baked after assembly. I did not try Gwen’s (it had at least one mushroom on my can’t-eat list), but she enjoyed it very much.

Gwen also had a glass of wine. Total tab: $42 plus tip. Service was friendly, and apart from the long wait for the main dishes, prompt. Seating was immediate, in contrast with El Chile a block away, where there was a line out into the street. Final verdict: room for improvement. Since it’s right in the neighborhood, we’ll no doubt be seeing whether it does in fact improve.

Update: On our second visit, Gwen, a friend, and myself each had a Caesar’s salad; I had a penne and sausage dish, Gwen had some kind of ravioli with pesto, and our friend had gnocchi with lamb meatballs. The salads were excellent, and had an unusual lemony dressing. The main dishes arrived in a reasonable amount of time and were also quite good.