Stellina Pizzeria is set to open April 2 in The Edison building in the Union Market District. Chef Matteo Venini and restaurateur Antonio Matarazzo partnered to bring the Italian restaurant to D.C. The pair first worked together at Lupo Verde and its sister restaurants.
The menu focuses on pizzas and street food from Italy’s southern coast. Guests order at the counter then servers deliver the goods. Delivery and takeout are also available. “I thought this was a niche that wasn’t filled,” says Matarazzo.
Crispy, 10-inch pizzas are cooked in approximately 90 seconds in a custom-built, rotating gas oven from Marra Forni. Some will be classically adorned, while others—like one with smoked pecorino crema, smoked tomato, smoked mozzarella, and speck—will push beyond tradition. (See the full menu below for prices.)
Though Stellina will normally serve traditionally sliced pizza, guests can ask to have them presented “al portafoglio-style,” where they are folded and wrapped in paper so customers can eat them on the go.
Since Venini has never cooked pizza professionally, he enrolled in two dough classes at Pizza University in Rockville. One focused on Neapolitan crust, the other on what Venini calls neo-Neapolitan crust. The latter came out the winner. “It’s a mix between the flavor of the Neapolitan,” he says, “and the texture of what we like in a pizza—a little more crunchy, crispy, and very light. We don’t like the chewiness of the classic Neapolitan.”
For further research, Venini traveled to Italy this past July. He spent a week each in northern and southern Italy. (Matarazzo took his own trip to Italy this fall, which included stops in Avellino, Naples, Venice, Verona, and Milan.) During the latter half of the trip, Venini focused on sampling pizzas. “I had pizza every hour or so,” he says. “It was intense.”
Was he sick of pizza by the end of the trip? “No, never,” Venini says. This fall, he went to New York City to dine at seven pizzerias in 24 hours.
Pizza isn’t the only option at Stellina, which features a selection of sandwiches made using pizza dough for the bread. One marries fried octopus with burrata, escarole, black olives, and chickpea purée while another packs in a breaded swordfish steak with grilled baby romaine lettuce and smoked mayonnaise.
Fried food also abounds. Options include arancini, suppli (cheese-stuffed fried rice balls), calamari, artichoke hearts, and croquettes—all presented in a cuoppo (paper cone). There are three pastas available, including cacio e pepe, house-made paccheri with meat ragù, and one replete with seafood. Enjoy desserts like tiramisu, panna cotta, and bomboloni in the restaurant or packaged to-go.
The wine list is exclusively Italian with plenty of options available by the half bottle. Francesco Amodeo of Don Ciccio & Figli is helping to create the cocktails, including an on-tap Negroni.
The duo isn’t completely abandoning their roots in fine dining. (Venini also held executive chef positions at Ristorante Tosca and Posto). On the last Saturday of each month, they will host what they’re currently calling “Matteo’s Night.” They’ll feature ticketed multi-course dinners with wine pairings, where Venini can highlight the techniques he utilized at his previous posts.
Their 2000-square-foot, 88-seat new venture was designed by Molly Allen of Allen Studios, who crafted a slick industrial space with an open kitchen, polished concrete floors, plenty of red and white accents, and a mural of Italian comic actor Toto in a Dolce & Gabbana suit. “The message is this is traditional, but contemporary,” says Matarazzo.
Stellina will be open Sundays through Thursdays from 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Fridays through Saturdays from 10:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Reservations won’t be offered immediately.
Stellina Pizzeria, 399 Morse St. NE; (202) 851-3995; stellinapizzeria.com