Opening a small business during a pandemic seems a bit intimidating, but that didn’t stop Stellina Pizza Cafe from opening in mid-May. As the fourth concept by the Blue Star Group, Stellina Pizza is housed in the former Willamette Market & Deli and long-time Little Market & Deli in the leafy Shooks Run neighborhood. Like its predecessors, the restaurant is perfectly located to be a neighborhood favorite. And with fare including Roman-style pizza, antipasti, lasagna and other handmade pastas, Stellina is sure to draw locavores, many along the Shooks Run/Legacy Loop trails.
“The inspiration to open a rustic Italian restaurant stems from the simplicity that can generally characterize Italian cuisine with many dishes having only a couple main ingredients,” says Will Merwin, Blue Star Group’s executive chef.
Dominating the current menu are the authentic Roman-style pies, which are known for their rectangular shape. Stellina uses a sourdough starter, and the dough follows a natural, three-day proofing process before baking. Some of the most popular pizzas on the menu so far have been the Dar Poeta — topped with mozzarella, Parmigiano Reggiano, artisanal spicy Italian sausage and sliced zucchini — and the Rocket, featuring mozzarella, ricotta, Parmigiano Reggiano and topped with fresh arugula and lemon vinaigrette.
While the pizzas are popular, the other menu items are not to be missed. Our favorite is the warm caprese, made with roasted tomatoes, mozzarella, arugula pesto and drizzled with balsamic vinegar aged 18 years. Order the focaccia to go along with it, which is baked fresh daily. The spicy sausage lasagna is the only pasta dish on the menu for the time being, but it’s a worthy choice, made with house-made pasta, ricotta, artisanal spicy Italian sausage and crushed tomato sauce topped with Parmigiano Reggiano aged 24 months.
As the dining industry continues to open gradually during the COVID-19 pandemic, Stellina plans to expand its menu to include more handmade pasta, gelato and draft cocktails. Some to-go cocktails are available already, including a Frosé (frozen rosé), sangria and nonalcoholic frozen lemonade.
Diners can sit and enjoy takeout on the patio, but the dining room and bathrooms will remain closed to the public for the time being. The restaurant is open for to-go orders, with a takeout window for patrons to collect their food.
749 E. Willamette Avenue