Boston Restaurant Blog -- September, 2009
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
A group of us met up in Watertown earlier this week at an upscale but casual Italian restaurant called Stellina. Now even though the place has been around for more than 20 years (and is well-known among both diners and food critics), for some reason I had never been there. But finally I made it over to this rather elegant and classy spot in the square, and had a terrific overall experience.
Stellina is a fairly small restaurant with a front entrance on Main Street in the heart of Watertown Square, and a back entrance/exit that leads to a seasonal patio with a garden and a fountain. The left side of the restaurant is mostly made up of a cozy, intimate bar that includes a space in the front for entertainment (there was live jazz music when we were there). The main dining area to the right is also cozy and romantic, with a mix of table lamps and attractive hanging lights adding to the slightly sultry feel. Toward the back is a rather narrow private room that tends to be used for larger parties such as ours.
Our server arrived soon after we sat down and we ordered some drinks, including various wines and beers (I was happy to see that Allagash White was included on their beer list). We skipped ordering appetizers, partly because the assorted breads (and a creamy pesto dip that was heavy on the garlic) were enough to keep us going until our main entrees arrived. And our dishes came to us fairly promptly, considering that nearly everything at Stellina seems to be made from scratch.
Among the dishes we had, there were several highlights, with perhaps the Tuscan lamb ragu being the standout. This was a dish that simply bowled us over, with the uniquely rich taste of the ground lamb mixing perfectly with fennel, garlic, olives, tomatoes, and pasta, and the wine and cream sauce adding even more richness to the dish. The humble pasta and meatball plate wasn't far behind, mainly because of the hearty mixture of pork, veal, and beef used in the homemade meatballs. The crispy thin-crust white pizza was similarly good, with an array of flavors coming from the smoked proscuitto, pungent fontina cheese, sharp-tasting garlic, and piney rosemary. The rather unusual eggplant parmesan lasagna included layers of breadcrumbs, mozzarella cheese, and bechamel sauce, with the coarse breadcrumbs mixing nicely with the smoother layers of the other ingredients. Finally, the pasta con fichi (pasta with figs) had a delightful mix of sweet and savory tastes coming from the figs and goat cheese, and the spinach that was mixed in added a slight bitterness to the complexity of the dish.
We were all pretty full from our meals, which is why the half-portions of tiramisu worked out perfectly. And their version of this dessert was a good one, with a strong espresso taste going nicely with the lighter tastes of the chocolate and mascarpone. Service was mostly decent, while prices were very good (probably because we didn't get soups, salads, or appetizers), with each person putting in just over $30.
As was the case with Highland Kitchen in Somerville (a fantastic restaurant that we reviewed last week), Stellina isn't exactly a hidden gem, so we won't be featuring it one this site. But as far as restaurants go, this was one of the best places I have been to all year, and one that I want to go back to very soon.
If you are looking for the address and phone number for Stellina, here it is: Stellina Restaurant, 47 Main Street, Watertown, MA, 02472. Phone: (617) 924-9475.
We returned to Stellina last night, once again having another terrific meal. The Caesar salad was just ok, with mostly iceberg lettuce used for it, but our meals were outstanding; the pizza with prosciutto, roasted garlic, rosemary, and fontina cheese was delicious once again, while the wild mushroom lasagna had an amazing array of flavors coming from the truffle oil, rich red sauce, earthy mushrooms, hearty mix of cheeses, tender pasta, and various herbs and spices. Service was top-notch, while prices were fairly reasonable overall.
Posted on 4/28/11
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