420 S 2nd St, Philadelphia, PA | Directions 1914739.942254 -75.145608
Sun-Thu 11am-11pm: Fri-Sat 11am-12am
Neighborhoods: Center City, Center City East
Have always been a big fan of the tartufo, a black truffle pie topped with a fried egg whose yolk is broken and smeared tableside.
Not Stellar – It is a cute little pizza place, however the pizzas aren't anything spectacular, and they are a bit pricy. I would say they are slightly bigger then a personal pizza, I do like the tartufo pie, as well as the polpette pizza. The grilled octopus was a nice size and very flavorful. There wasn't an extensive beer or wine selection, but it sufficed since we just popped in for a bite. The people watching in the summer time is great. I would think Steven Starr would have pulled out a couple more stops when he puts his name on a restaurant. Like I said, it's not stellar.
A Sad Disappointment – I work in the area and love all things Stephen Starr, so when Cosi closed I found out he was opening a restaurant I was all too excited. I went the first week and while the spinach, pine nut feta pizza was amazing i would not go back to this restaurant again. $15 for a lunch sized pizza is just way to much. And thankfully we dodnt order any sides as the table next to us and given how small they were I don't think they would have done good in supplementing our meals if we had split the pizza.
There is no bar, they only serve beer and wine and there were no other entree options other than pizza. I agree with the previous review in that nothing about this restaurant says Starr. I suspect he had very little to do in how the place was decorated, the concept and the menu selection. And if he did, he'd be better off going along with my story as this place is a sad little disappointment.
We had no idea this was a Starr restaurant until we left and saw "STARR" postcards by the door. Stella had no "Starr" quality. We merely thought it was a slightly better looking than average, decent quality, grossly overpriced "New York Style (wink wink)" pizza place that would thrive in it's location due to outdoor seating.
First there is nothing on the menu about the size of the pizza. This is important. The extremely thin crust, brittle pies came in one size, one usually considered "small." Neither the menu nor our server mentioned this. Our server came over 3 times to take our order and never offered any info or assistance as we wrangled with the menu. Prices ranged from $10 to $17 per pizza. We assumed splitting one would be a meal.
Many of the pizza combinations seemed more creative than complementary. The "special pizza" with ramps sounded delicious but tender, delicate, seasonal ramps were paired with asparagus which upon roasting would overwhelm the ramps. We ordered thru a similar process of elimination. We have adventurous palettes but respect ingredients and don't eat as a "dare" preferring harmony. We got a meatball pie with ricotta, mozzarella and fresh basil and a romaine salad to split.
The service was "hovery" but not good. A server should stand still when they ask "is everything ok." When we did have a question -if goat cheese was in the "Romaine salad" we were served, our server said "No, it's Ricotta (garbled)" haughtily turned on her heel and left. We both loathe goat cheese but picked around whatever the hell it was and enjoyed the salad. The red onions and hints of mint worked well together. The romaine and tomatoes were fresh.
The casual food and decor clashes with the constant clearing, of dishes, especially those still in use. Philadelphia kitchens have come to rely more and more on fewer and fewer Philadelphians and Stella is no exception. Sad to see a South Street "open kitchen" and wood fired, brick oven pizza being completely staffed by people who chattered loudly in Spanish. That brought the "authentic wood fired pizza experience" down several notches.
The interior was stylish but not outstanding. The personalized wood burning oven screamed look at me. The bathrooms were clean but rather pedestrian. The newly renovated Melrose Diner's ladies room with glass tile is more stylishly appointed. The muzak was ironic, mixing the Jam with Fleetwood Mac.
We had just finished our salad when the pizza came. We both laughed. It was tiny. The crust was highly visible. At the first bite we could tell this pizza was a New York joke on South Street patrons. It was literally a "meatball pizza" it perhaps had ONE thinly shaved meatball on the whole thing. The crust was floury, tortilla thin, crackly and artfully appointed with toppings. It was tasty, but tiny and extremely expensive and unsatisfying.
While swatting away staff who kept trying to take our plates while we swiftly ate the pizza we announced our verdict on Stella, SUCKS and is for SUCKERS.
There was mounting tension and disappointment as we realized we both were still hungry. We considered our portions equivalent a "light lunch." Our server, or a size on the menu could have guided us better. Really easy fixes.
We were STUNNED to find out it was a Starr place as we left. Only 2 clues it was a Starr place, the choice of bottled or ice water and ramps as a feature ingredient. The cost per portion should have been a clue.
After we settled up, we took our starving selves to Phileo.
Stephen Starr’s Headhouse Square pizzeria. – Stephen Starr’s Headhouse Square pizzeria is casual by Starr standards. Don’t let the word “pizzeria” food you. Although this is no splashy, themed restaurant, it is still a Stephen Starr effort and any foodie in Philadelphia knows that he doesn’t do anything mundane. Patrons are greeted at the door by a well-dressed hostess and a dominant food bar that invites patrons seated at its few stools to watch almost a dozen cooks roll, then wood-fire constant streams of floury, artisanal pizza dough then top them with classy ingredients like smoked mozzarella and prosciutto. About 20 uncovered tables line the concrete floor of the sunny, smoothly tiled corner space; on warm days, casual Italian café tables beckon from the sidewalk to the restaurant’s creative business types and preppy stay-at-home moms.
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