Stella Rossa

By Phyllis Stein-Novack
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 16 | Posted Nov. 21, 2013

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Center City-based Stella Rosa offers patrons a well-balanced menu ranging from cured meats, to red and white pies to classic Italian dishes.

Photo by Kathryn Poole

For the past few years, a number of pizza restaurants have opened their doors offering a plethora of pies with classic and unusual ingredients. Nothing can top Pizzeria Vetri when it comes to that crisp, slightly blistered crust and marvelous toppings. But I also like SliCE, Pizzeria Pesto and Zavona Wine Bar Pizzeria.

If you are looking for a moderately priced Italian restaurant that welcomes families, Stella Rossa is for you. Located at 10th and Walnut, it is a fine spot for a lunchtime pizza or sandwich, as well as dinner before the theater. On the night we dined, a number of families were off to see “Elf.”

The menu offers no surprises, as one can build a meat, cheese and olive board, munch on a salad or tuck into pasta or pizza. Several entrees are on order as well.

Stella Rossa was packed when Edward and I arrived early on a recent Saturday evening. There was a 30-minute wait, so we decided to dine at one of the bi-level restaurant’s two bars. The cozy, warm atmosphere featured brick walls with soft lighting and music. The staff was friendly and professional, even when service was at a high pace. I sipped a Negroni ($9)while Edward enjoyed a Bombay Sapphire martini ($9.75). A bartender brought us small square rolls made with pizza dough and a spicy olive oil to keep us happy.

I am still dreaming abut the arancini ($8). These fried risotto balls can be difficult to prepare because arborio rice has a tendency be fickle when it is first toasted and laced with stock. Four of them arrived piping hot, and were stuffed with provolone that oozed creaminess as soon as I took my first bite. The rice also imparted a creamy texture. I also liked the seasoned breadcrumbs that coated the appetizer. We dipped them into a fresh marinara fragrant with chopped basil.

Fried calamari has become so ubiquitous, I often hesitate to order it. I don’t like frozen rings of squid that taste like rubber bands. Stella Rossa’s version ($11) was nicely done. Whole baby squid along with rings were coated in a light crumb and gently fried to a golden brown. The coating never fell off the calamari. Sliced banana peppers were included for a bit of punch, and the roasted garlic aioli and spicy marinara dipping sauces were a fine idea.

Besides pizza, meatballs also are close to my heart. A number of restaurants make them pretty well, a number can be tasteless and gummy. Stella Rossa offers them prepared with either beef or veal or vegetarian. We chose beef meatballs ($9), and they quickly brought a smile to my face. The beef was beautifully seasoned. They were braised, browned and served in a soup bowl filled with fresh marinara and topped with grated shreds of Parmesan. The crisp crostini were perfect for dipping, but I liked the small dish of fresh ricotta that I schmeered on the bread. Three good-sized meatballs came with the order.

Now to the pizza. The dough is made at the restaurant. The red or white pies, which are baked in a wood-burning oven, can be ordered with a variety of toppings.

We selected the mushroom pizza ($12) topped with Taleggio, one of my favorite cheeses which is sometimes called the Brie of Italy. It melted beautifully on the pie and was topped with sliced cremini mushrooms and a hint of truffle oil. These mushrooms imparted a heady woody flavor and aroma that blended nicely with the mild cheese. I thought the pizza could have been crisper.

Stella Rossa offers wine by the four -ounce glass, seven-ounce glass, half-carafe or bottle. I like this wine service because it affords guests to sip a glass or two of different wines with their meal. We chose a half-carafe of Montepulciano ($17) that was just OK. It had the texture of cough syrup.

With all the upscale fine dining restaurants that dot Center City, Stella Rossa found its niche. I watched a family of five that sat near us eat a meal that did not break the bank. And the smile on a little boy’s face as he ate spaghetti and meatballs was priceless.

Three tips of the toque to Stella Rossa.

Stella Rossa

929 Walnut St.

Contact the South Philly Review at

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Comments 1 - 16 of 16
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1. Angela said... on Nov 21, 2013 at 02:02PM

“9th and Walnut was not in South Philly the last time I checked.

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2. Marty Medals said... on Nov 21, 2013 at 02:49PM

“Negroni is my favorite mixed drink. I actually was lucky enough to have one in it's birthplace in Florence, Italy.
Occupying a side street sidewalk in central Florence, the Caffè Giacosa is buffeted by a racket of scooters, car alarms, construction work and those funny European sirens. It’s wonderfully Italian in its way, especially when your negroni turns out to be … well, a negroni..

That is not in South Philly either but who cares?”

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3. Tony said... on Nov 21, 2013 at 03:59PM

“It's not like she's reviewing restaurants in Chicago or Moscow. If you live and/or work in South Philly, it might actually be a good idea to know what restaurants exist nearby in case you might--perish the thought!!--actually think about leaving the neighborhood for a short amount of time to enjoy something different.”

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4. Angela said... on Nov 21, 2013 at 04:43PM

“It's not that I don't want to hear about other restaurants in other locations, it's that the majority of them in the SOUTH PHILLY Review should be in South Philly.”

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5. George said... on Nov 21, 2013 at 06:52PM

“"It had the texture of cough syrup"? A glass of wine did? Don't you mean "flavor" or "taste"? If a glass of white wine had the TEXTURE of syrup it would drip slowly off a spoon! You would send it back, just as you do with cold entrees.”

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6. MS said... on Nov 22, 2013 at 07:26AM

“Nice review walking distance to South Philly.

I regard to the wine the restaurant didn't make it so no big deal.

My question to PSN or the editor: It seems that the reviewer most certainly liked the restaurant and didn't have any flaws in the meal - so why only 3 tips of the toque? She has reviewed places that she's found flaws/problems/issues with yet they might get a higher notation.

Please advise.”

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7. Anonymous said... on Nov 22, 2013 at 11:41AM

“Market Street divides North and South Philly. 9th & Walnut is south of Market. Therefore this restaurant is properly included in the South Philly Review.”

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8. Marty Medals said... on Nov 22, 2013 at 01:05PM

“Dear Anon,
South of South street has been considered South Philly for years and years.
But that is besides the point, Why are the real great places in the real SOUTH PHILLY not being visited and revisited in this paper?

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9. Anonymous said... on Nov 22, 2013 at 03:33PM

“No one thinks market street is south philly.”

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10. Tony said... on Nov 24, 2013 at 12:05PM

“I just realized what's going on here. Phyllis is in a citywide competitive contest to be the first (and best?) reviewer of new restaurants. For example, Craig LaBan reviewed Little Nonna's today; Phyllis reviewed it on Oct 10. She won! So she must be a better person, because she is so "in the know" and was able to be there before those other writers. And with her puffed up language and casual remarks about folks she knows in the business, she must be the go-to person in Philadelphia. Right?

To hell with whether the restaurant is located in South Philly. What's important is that she's there before the others, waxing poetic over local gin and ramekins (whatever they are).”

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11. MS said... on Nov 25, 2013 at 10:09AM


4 tips of the toque to you!


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12. Marty Medals said... on Nov 26, 2013 at 04:27PM

“I wish everyone a Healthy and Happy Thanksgiving!”

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13. Tony said... on Nov 26, 2013 at 04:46PM

“Thank you, Marty. May your Thanksgiving table be filled with ramekins.”

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14. Anonymous said... on Nov 26, 2013 at 10:41PM

“You're all a bunch of turkeys anyway...gobble...gobble..gobble...”

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15. Mark said... on Dec 28, 2013 at 07:09PM

“Just had dinner at Stella Rossa Restaurant on Walnut Street. The wood oven pizzas were delicious and the service was outstanding. Angie, our server, attended to our every need. She was excellent. Go and enjoy - you'll like it.”

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16. Anonymous said... on Jan 11, 2014 at 05:10PM

“Right, so did you mean Zavino Pizzeria....

Is there an editor in sight? Maybe someone to proof read just once?


Stella Review: We selected the mushroom pizza ($12) topped with Taleggio, one of my favorite cheeses which is sometimes called the Brie of Italy. It melted beautifully on the pie and was topped with sliced cremini mushrooms and a hint of truffle oil. These mushrooms imparted a heady woody flavor and aroma that blended nicely with the mild cheese. I thought the pizza could have been crisper.

Bufad Review: Unlike the cool seafood used in the first pizza, the mixed button and wild mushrooms were first roasted to bring out their heady flavor and aroma. Taleggio, hailed as the brie of Italy, and smoked mozzarella mingled with the mushrooms and melted beautifully on the pie. The pizza was drizzled with truffle oil before it was baked. Maybe it spent more time in the wood-fired oven, but this crust was crisp and a delight to eat.”


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