Stellina Pasta is so darn cute a diner might be forgiven for initially thinking the food would be secondary. That’s "cute" as in good-looking, its design elements carefully thought out in modern terms. It’s emphatically not cutesy. Notice, for instance, the mosaic star under the big front window. ("Stellina" is Italian for little star.)
It’s not a big place, and the prices are modest. But we’ve learned that when a little spot is handsomely done, it’s a good sign that someone, or several someones, cares deeply about it, and that bodes well for the food.
And so it is with Stellina. What it offers, besides the visuals, is a combination of eat-in and take-home. And it’s not just about the homemade pasta, although that’s pretty darn fine. Throughout the day, it serves coffee, espresso and some yummy pastries, like these macaroons.
We dropped by for lunch, and had a hard time deciding what to eat. There’s always a lasagna du jour, and what a swell idea that is. In fact, there are three pastas of the day, the lasagna, a stuffed pasta and a long-cut pasta, which is to say something like fettuccine or spaghetti. Linguine made with squid ink comes out a lavender-gray, the ink producing not just color but an enhanced brininess. Serving it with seafood is only logical, and Stellina’s take was remarkably good, the pasta’s texture just about perfect, and the seafood consisting of shrimp and squid, not overcooked and sauced with garlic and oil, plus some fresh spinach that had been melted into the mixture. The colors were lovely, too.
Sandwiches come both cold or hot, including several kid-amenable options. Grilled vegetables and goat cheese on multigrain? Garlic roast beef and olive tapenade ? Oh, the difficulty of it all. Our South Side Smoke sandwich had pulled pork, which was moist and flavorful, although probably not smoked, but the smoked gouda cheese and onions cooked so long they had caramelized made it seem as though it had been, and we have no complaints, especially since it was served on a ciabatta-style bun, adding just enough texture contrast.
Stellina Pasta Café
3342 Watson Rd.
Monday-Friday 10 a.m.-9 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Credit cards: Yes
Wheelchair access: Fair