Chef Matteo Venini is leaving Lupo Verde and Lupo Verde Osteria to open Stellina Pizzeria, an upscale casual Italian eatery near Union Market (399 Morse St. NE). He and his business partner, Antonio Matarazzo, also a veteran of Lupo Verde’s restaurant group, hope to open the restaurant in late October. The menu will focus on pizzas, house-made pastas, sandwiches, and coastal Italian street food.
It’s a big shift for the chef. “I’m a little scared because I know it will be different,” he says. “But doing fine dining every day is stressful, so I’m ready for a change.”
He’ll fire 10-inch pizzas in a Marra Forni gas oven. “We want the flavor, look, and lightness of Neapolitan pizza with the crispiness of Roman pizza,” Venini says. He took classes at Pizza University in Beltsville, Md. to hone the recipe for his dough. “You have to taste the three main ingredients—dough, tomatoes, and mozzarella—so we’re not going crazy on the toppings for our signature pizzas.”
There will also be a significant sandwich selection, all offered on pizza dough instead of bread. Early ideas include one with fried octopus, burrata, and sautéed escarole; one with braised beef with Neapolitan ragu and pecorino cheese; one with stracciatella cheese, mortadella, and pistachio dressing; and yet another evoking the flavors of cacio e pepe. The most decadent sandwich in development features butter-poached lobster, caviar, and shaved truffles.
In a nod to Neapolitan tradition, fried options will be presented in the paper cones Italians call “cuoppo.” Guests can choose seafood—including calamari, shrimp, anchovy, and octopus—along with some terrestrial choices, like mushrooms and peppers. The fryer will also turn out arancini (fried risotto balls) and both savory and sweet fried pizzas.
For dessert, guests can score classic Italian sweets like tiramisu and panna cotta. A full bar will feature beer, cocktails, and a broad range of bubblies to complement the seafood. Italian varietals will feature prominently on the wine list.
The 2,000-square-foot restaurant will have 30 seats outside on the sidewalk and 50 seats inside spread across a four-seat bar, communal tables, and a few two-tops and four-tops. The aesthetic will emphasize whites and reds, a hat tip to tomato sauce and mozzarella.
The name Stellina means “little star” and pays tribute to Matarazzo’s daughter Stella. Each of a star’s five points represents a different element of the business: pizza, style, food, love, and Italy.
Stellina Pizzeria will start by serving lunch and dinner only, but the team plans to eventually serve breakfast too. Down the road, Venini would also like to start hosting chef’s dinners. He envisions the four- or five-course meals will cost $60 to $70 per person, and be in the style of the elevated fare he was known for at Lupo Verde and Tosca.
Venini will work at Lupo Verde’s two locations through the end of the month.
Stellina Pizzeria, 399 Morse St. NE