Pizzeria Stella, 1/2/10


Stephen Starr.

While trying to write this review, I thought I’d flesh out my feelings about the Stephen Starr Empire. But I found myself unable to put it all together coherently. While talking to Miriam about it, she summed it up with “It’s complicated,” which is a pretty accurate assessment.

I feel fairly ambivalent towards his restaurant empire. I like that they’ve all played a part in revitalizing the city, but I don’t think one will ever be my favorite restaurant in Philly (current fav: Sang Kee, specifically for the Peking duck meal). I was still trying to resolve my feelings about these restaurants while reviewing a draft of this post when it all suddenly made sense – I’d used the phrase “nothing spectacular, but tasty” twice.

But I do like their presence in the city. You’re not going to have a bad meal at a Starr restaurant, and you’re most likely going to enjoy the pageantry.

Anyway. Pizzeria Stella.

Miriam and I met Jordan and Dr. Lindsay there on a freezing Saturday night. We had about a 40 minute wait (I think?) that we spent at the Dark Horse Pub. Once the hostess called us, we bundled back up (it was so flippin cold that night) and walked across 2nd Street.

I was a little thrown off by the communal tables, but the spacing was ample enough that I didn’t feel like I was a part of the group next to us.


We started with the broccoli rabe. It was waaaay overcooked, but I didn’t want to say anything for fear of being all critiquey during the meal. Turns out, everyone else felt the same way.

Dear friends, please do not hesitate to judge food with me.

Look at that broccoli rabe though…it just looks exhausted.

The pizza! We ordered three pies, the Finnochio, the Bianca, and the Pistachio.

In order of deliciousness:


The Bianca, with mozzarella, tallegio and oregano. This was tasty, but nothing spectacular. Just a standard white pizza.


The Finnochio with black olive, caramelized fennel, mozzarella, and tomato. This was delicious. I’m not the biggest fan of licorice and therefore not a fan of raw fennel. I’d heard that roasting it draws out its natural sweetness, which sounds more like something I’d be interested in. I didn’t have a chance to test it out before this night, but I’m planning on getting a bulb of fennel and doing some home experimenting soon.

And who doesn’t love olives?

Seriously, what’s wrong with you olive haters?


Aaah, the Pistachio, with red onion, pistachio, fontina, and extra virgin olive oil. Bright slivers of onion, crunchy pistachios, creamy fontina. Jordan and Dr. Lindsay had eaten at Stella before and raved about the Pistachio, and not just to Miriam and I while we were deciding which pies to order. Dr. Lindsay had overheard someone in the Dark Horse pondering what pies to order at Stella and had told them as well that they needed to order the Pistachio.

I hope they did.

I know what you’re thinking – nuts? On a pizza? Dude, just go for it. As much as I love a slice of plain pizza, or pepperoni, or buffalo chicken, sometimes you just need to be adventurous with your pizza.

Dessert was gelato!


Hazelnut and olive oil. Nothing spectacular, but tasty nonetheless. I’m getting slightly obsessed with oddly flavored gelatos. I blame the avocado gelato I had while out in CA during my last law school spring break and Capogiro.

In retrospect, it was probably foolish to eat something cold before leaving the warmth of the giant pizza oven. But we thought we were just headed to Southwark for a nightcap. Alas, they were closed, so we had to venture further to Beaumonde. It was not the night for aimless wandering, but we made it with faces slightly frozen.

I can’t wait for spring.


January 13, 2010. Philly.


  1. Emily replied:

    Olive Oil Gelato!!!! Ok, at some point you will come with us to Otto, where you will have the Olive Oil Coppetta. I should start making a list of these things. They switch up the components of this coppetta frequently, but last time I had it, there was olive oil gelato + tangerine sorbetto + candied kumquat + fennel brittle (not my favorite part) + olive oil drizzled on top + sea salt. Amazing.

    • sarahdares replied:

      ROAD TRIP.

      Oh kumquats.

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