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Stella - Starr's new pizza place


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The star of the night might have been the octopus and squid salad, as mentioned above by professor Fenton. Ours was heavier on the squid than the octopus, but that squid was absolutely perfecty cooked, almost alarmingly tender. With its potatoes and a light dressing, it reminded me a bit of a great octopus salad that chef Painter used to serve at Tangerine. It made a great opener to the meal. I don't think I could tell from the menu that it would be cold, but I can't say I was disappointed.

I'm glad you tried it! It really was my favorite dish, and while I agree that it'd have been nice to see more octopus and less squid, both were perfectly cooked. I love cold octopus salad- it's one of those dishes you just don't see enough of, and this was really well done: tender, nicely dressed and with some, but not too much potato. Even my two year old loved it and kept asking for more octopus (I predict she'll be grossed out by the idea by the time she's four, but oh well).

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''''''''''''''''iiiiiiiiiiiiii, I'm practicing!

Aside from this fun distraction, I've found it interesting that anyone would be offended by the fact that cooks pilch techniques and/or recipes from anyone else.

"I drink to make other people interesting".

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My gf and I went last night and thought everything was very good. I am by no means a pizza snob, and I found the place to be a fun pizza joint. We had a margherita pie and a San Daniele pie, which had prosciutto, arugala and smoked mozzerella. Both crusts were delicious, and I thought our margherita pie had an enjoyably wet (not soggy) center. Gf is the furthest thing from a foodie and her first comment was "I don't usually eat the crust, but this crust is really good." Later on when there were only a few pieces of crust left in front of us she said, "I want to stop eating, but I really love this crust." So take that for what it's worth. I considered asking for either some olive oil or sauce to dip the extra crusts in but instead just ate them plain. We finished with chocolate and ricotta gelatos which were perfectly fine. Our server was nice, and both her and a manager stopped by to ask if the quality of the pizza was to our liking, which it was.

As far as comparison goes, and again, I'm no pizza snob, I've had the prosciutto and arugala pizza from Osteria, and that was a truly eye-opening pie. If that was an A+, then Stella's version was a solid B+. My whole thing with pizza is that I am firmly in the camp of "whatever pizza you grew up with is your favorite." Therefore, I love Alex's in Manayunk and Sam's in Wildwood. I loathe Mack's further down the boardwalk cause I'm loyal to Sam's. That's about it. Don't even talk to me about Mack and Manco's. I would stop at Stella if I was in the neighborhood, but I'm not sure I would travel down there again if I can get something equally as satisfying TO ME closer to home. Fortunately for them, they're in a killer location and will always have a ton of people in their neighborhood.

I would kill everyone in this room for a drop of sweet beer...

Homer Simpson

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What's funny about the story about their tomato espionage (and what makes me thing that it might simply be a marketing gimmick) is that the pizza sauce as Stella seems pretty clearly to be cooked and adulterated with seasoning. With classical Neapolitan pie the sauce is simply crushed San Marzano tomatoes, and in that cause of course it really matters what tomatoes you're using. But given what Stella is doing with their sauce, it strikes me as improbable that it makes much of a difference which brand of San Marzano tomatoes they're using.

I don't mind the sauce at Stella; it tastes pretty unexceptional to me. In fact, it's be really interesting if they made at least one "artisanal" pie with just crushed San Marzano tomatoes and really good (buffalo or not) mozzarella. This might be pretty damn good.

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  • 1 month later...

I'm never quite sure what to expect from this place, but in general, I've been enjoying the food...

We dropped in again recently and had the Octopus/Squid salad, which was quite good, although one of my dining companions pointed out that a little textural variety would be nice. That reminded me that the somewhat similar salad that Chef Painter made at Tangerine had crunchy green beans in it, which was a nice contrast. Still, I'm amazed at how tender that squid is.

The Sausage and lentils dish was very tasty. Arugula/Beet salad was pretty standard, but still worth getting.

We got three pizzas, with varying results.

Stella-Fennel.jpg

The Finocchio featured roasted fennel and black olives atop a perfectly thin, airy crust. The fennel was a bit sweet, the olives nicely salty, all in all a very balanced and satisfying pizza.

Stella-Vongole.jpg

The Vongole looked and smelled great, but just as the previous pizza was balanced, this one was out of whack. It tasted mostly of broccoli rabe, with a bit of pancetta and garlic, but the clams had gotten a bit lost. This crust was a bit damp, surely from the greens and clams both likely to exude some water while cooking. The flavors weren't bad, just out of proportion to one another. This pizza could probably do with a lighter hand with the toppings in general, the greens in particular.

Although we'd had it before, we also got a pepperoni pizza, because, well, it's delicious. And this one was very good, but a little odd in that the crust was simultaneously thick and thin: beautifully delicate and crisp in the middle, but weirdly bulbous around the perimeter. Not a tragedy by any means, but it was just strange to have a very thin pizza with a high, dense cornicione. And it seemed especially odd that the crusts on three pizzas made at approximately the same time would be so different. The Finocchio's was consistent and light, almost flaky, with a very slightly thicker rim. The clam pie's crust was denser and thicker overall. The pepperoni's was thinner than the other two, except around the edge. I'd be surprised if they were making adjustments to the dough based on what was going on it, but you never know...

The lesson we took from this was: get the Finocchio.

Edited by philadining (log)

"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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I thought I had posted about our visit last week but was apparently mistaken. They don't take reservations but jtnicolosi and I, along with our respective dates, got in easily at 6:30. By the time we left at 8/8:30, there was a wait--this was on a Tuesday night.

We skipped the apps and indulged in 4 pies--one per person. We got two sausage pizzas, the margherita and the tartufo. The husband and I ordered glasses of Lambrusco (reminiscent of our trip to Northern Italy where we were engaged) and then we ordered a chianti for the table. As mentioned earlier, the pours were small. I did, however, like the idea of a cheap house wine. Very affordable at $5.50 a glass and very Italian! Pizzas came out as ordered and we watched them being fired in the beautiful wood burning oven. Sausage was delicious and I don't even eat pork! The fennel gave it a great flavor without overpowering the dish. The tartufo was outstanding. RIch without being overly cloying and the egg yolk was deliciously runny. The pizza was placed on the opposite end of the table and the truffle aroma emanated. I only had a bite of the margherita but it was just as visually and sensorily appetizing as the others. The crusts were nicely charred with the perfect ratio of topping to crust. I would love to get the pistachio and red onion pie next time, although I'm glad to hear the review of the vongole pie, as that was one of our options. I think we ordered well and got a great sampling from the menu. For dessert, my companions split the house made pistachio gelato which received rave "it's not too sweet!" reviews. Sorry for the quick and undetailed review, but the bottom line is we loved it!

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  • 5 weeks later...

I went last Sunday, but to be honest, already had my mind made up. When hankerin’ for pizza, why in the world would you choose a Starr restaurant? That’s like going to El Vez for Mexican!

But here I was, in front of the place, hungry and alone. So I took my bad attitude inside for a sampling. I ordered the spinach pizza and a glass of the house wine. As I waited, warm and toasty in front of the oven, I couldn’t help but notice the “chain restaurant” feel to the place. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it has something to do with everything seemingly precisely staged. The service was warm and attentive, but maybe a little overboard, bordering on phony. All of the pizzas going out looked identical, the size and shape of the flame in the wood oven unchanging. I know, why complain? Who doesn’t value consistency in a restaurant? But there’s a difference between a place that is consistent as a means to excellence, and one that values consistency for the sake of…consistency.

Wine arrived in a tumbler, which I know is part of their schtick, but even the simplist of wines deserve a decent glass. Plus it was warm! I don’t drink my reds chilled, but a little cooler than 90 degrees please. The pizza was good; the crust was a smidgeon thicker and drier than I like it, but there was nothing to complain about regarding the topping. The bill, for a tumbler of plonk and a small pizza, was close to $25 with tax and tip.

I guess I’m not Stella's target customer, but next time I want pizza, I’ll just grab my $10 bottle of Barbera and head over to Paolo on Pine, where two of us could eat better and for less than I did, alone at Stella. I really don’t think they’ll miss me.

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WHAT!!!!!!!!!!

The wine was WARM?!?!?!??!?!?!?!? :angry: :angry: :shock::laugh:

Read my post above, somewhere. When we went, the red wine came icy cold. It was explained to us, I kid you not, that the wine gets warm from being stored near the oven. Each morning they chill the wine to get it to the proper temperature!!

Good pizza, but the restaurant lacks the vibe/feel/comfort I like when eating my pizza. Compare any number of places in the 5 boroughs or Trenton or even Tacconelli's or Alfred's just over the Walt Whitman Bridge. They have soul, not a pretentious facade. That's what it takes, I guess to get enough people in there.

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Color me not too surprised that no one at Stella realizes that repeatedly heating and cooling the wine is terrible for it. I'm surprised that there aren't drip marks coming from under the corks of stuff running down the bottle/labels. Blech. They're serving cooked wine. That's disgraceful. And really amateurish to boot. Is there NO ONE in that place that knows better??? :unsure:

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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Color me not too surprised that no one at Stella realizes that repeatedly heating and cooling the wine is terrible for it. I'm surprised that there aren't drip marks coming from under the corks of stuff running down the bottle/labels. Blech. They're serving cooked wine. That's disgraceful. And really amateurish to boot. Is there NO ONE in that place that knows better??? :unsure:

It's a very small list - I doubt the wine sits around long enough to get cooked. When I've had it, it's fine, it might have been very good even, except for the temperature.

I still find it hard to believe they can't figure out how to store the wine away from the oven.

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Color me not too surprised that no one at Stella realizes that repeatedly heating and cooling the wine is terrible for it. I'm surprised that there aren't drip marks coming from under the corks of stuff running down the bottle/labels. Blech. They're serving cooked wine. That's disgraceful. And really amateurish to boot. Is there NO ONE in that place that knows better??? :unsure:

So I take it you don't plan on working for SS. LOL

Edited by gfweb (log)
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I wouldn't argue that improper temperatures are inconsequential, but on three visits, none of my wine had gone bad. The first time, it was pretty ridiculously hot, but at the next two visits my wine was served at a reasonable temperature, and tasted fine. So I'm a little surprised to hear that some customers are still experiencing a problem with that, it seemed to me like they'd figured it out.

"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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