When I think of Boston, cold weather, die-hard sports fans, the Commons, and the Ivy league first come to mind. I sometimes think back to Revolutionary days - admiring the architecture of this historical city on the Harbor. Enjoying all of the above, but mostly spending time with college friends has always taken precedence over any food excursions on my visits. Well, move over San Francisco, Chicago, even New York, here comes a city who wants to and can join the culinary ranks. I can finally admit that my most recent weekend in Boston turned into a typical travel weekend for me - a culinary adventure. While I do have friends who know me well and put much thought into every dining experience, each meal, from brunch to lunch to dinner, was a complete success. But, it was our dinner at Stella on Saturday night that was really top-notch and has forever changed my view of Boston dining.
Stella already gets praises in my books for being located in the South End - one of my favorite neighborhoods in Boston; and, a second round of praises for serving Italian fare, my weakness. And, to top it off, I couldn't believe it when there was a section on the menu for grilled pizza! New York's Gonzo had introduced me to this delicious creation, but I had never seen it any other restaurant. Luckily, I was with a group of ten and so we were able to order several of these as well as other starters to begin with. I may now be convinced that all pizzas should be grilled as both the homemade meatball with buffalo mozzarella and toasted garlic as well as the shitake, crimini, and oyster pie drizzled with truffle oil were absolutely delicious. There was an even draw at the table as to which was best - but, the meatball pizza definitely gets my top vote. We also shared the crispy fried artichoke hearts with a country mustard remoulade and a couple orders of the parmesan arancini - risotto balls stuffed with mozzarella topped with a spicy pomodoro fondue. Needless to say, the meal started out with a bang.
As we moved onto the main course, our table was a true testament to the versatility of Stella. The preparations were all so appealing that we actually ventured away from a typical pasta-only Italian experience and sampled everything from the chicken to several different fish to pork. Of course, there were still many pasta dishes on the table and rightfully so, since the orecchiette with sausage, cured tomato and chile flakes ended up being amazing. Although this dish sounds rather basic, it was the perfect preparation of many of my favorite flavors. Another wonderful, traditional Italian dish was the Osso Buco. However, to stray from the norm, the chefs used pork instead of veal and served it over basil parmesan risotto in a red wine sauce. Since I rarely go the seafood route in an Italian restaurant, I was nicely surprised by both the salmon and the swordfish. But, my favorite seafood dish was the saffron risotto with calamari, mussels, and shrimp in a citrus tomato broth - creating a sort of Italian bouillabaisse.
Overall, it was a wonderful, memorable evening. It is not every day that I get to enjoy a delicious dinner with 9 friends, enjoy it in a chic setting, and continue to enjoy it once the bill arrives. I apologize now for my previous misconceptions, but, I still would have never guessed I could have enjoyed all of this in good old Beantown! Stella has certainly set me straight and raised the bar for all future visits up north. One last praise: although we didn't have time (or really room for dessert), I walked out the door with my small, but still usually quite apparent sweet tooth more than satisfied. There is a small jar full of chocolate mints at the hostess podium. Be sure to grab a handful or two before heading out - it never hurts to go out on a fresh note!
1525 Washington St.
Boston, MA 02118
FOOD RATING (out of 5):