Housed in the same building as Summer House Santa Monica, which was the subject of a previous Chritique, Stella Barra is a new pizzeria from Lettuce Entertain You Restaurants. Dim lights and a dark interior provide an intimate dining space for those looking for a casual dinner or a great date spot. Grab a stool at the bar for a nice view of the industrial dining room and bright open kitchen at the opposite end of the space.
The menu is comprised mostly of pizzas which are divided into five “red” and five “white” varieties, all made from handcrafted dough that can be styled into either a standard crust with a chewy center, or a “thin sin” version which is like a cracker crust. Three varieties of homemade pastas, four salads, five different vegetables, and a small selections of starters, including brisket and pork belly meatballs, and fresh burrata served with wood-grilled red grapes and fig cincotto, are available. A select variety of wines, beers, and hand-crafted cocktails round out the menu.
Marinated olives are a salty start to whet your palette, and the heirloom spinach and purple kale salad, highlighted by a perfect combination of medjool dates and pecorino cheese, are wonderful starters. Roasted cauliflower, served with brown butter, smoked provolone, and hazelnuts, is a smart accompaniment to the delicious pizzas. The menu has a pizza for everyone, from vegans to staunch carnivores. The rossa pizza, one of the “red” varieties, boasts arugula, roasted garlic, spicy calabrian chilies, and sweet basil. We added fresh burrata cheese to the pizza and the small, fluffy mounds of goodness made the flavors sing and blend harmoniously. And, since we ordered the “thin sin” version, we did not feel guilty after devouring the entire thing.
I will be back to try the shaved mushroom pizza, one of Stella Barra’s best sellers, featuring gruyére, melted onions, and black truffles. And, because a fried egg makes everything better, the proscuitto and farm egg, with fresh mozzarella, gruyére, pecorino, chili flakes, and a sunny-side up egg, looks amazing, as well. Pizzas can be customized, with additional toppings such as white anchovy, pork sausage, and proscuitto rossa available. No greasy, cheese-laden, or gut-busting pizzas here. Instead they are light, fresh, and flavorful.
Skip Stella Barra’s dessert offerings and head straight to the bakery case located at the joint entrance of Stella Barra and Summer House. The goodies are big enough to share and include a vast varieties of cookies, brownies, and Rice Krispies treats. The peanut butter cookie, in particular, is divine, featuring a brown sugar flavor and chopped peanuts throughout.
While reservations can be made, they are not necessary, unlike next door at Summer House. Plenty of bar seating is available for walk-ins. Service is informed, pleasant, and responsive.
For a casual night out featuring creative, delicious, and fresh pizzas with unique ingredients, Stella Barra is the perfect place.
1954 N. Halsted Street