public house. n. Chiefly British. A place, such as a tavern or bar, that is licensed to sell alcoholic beverages.
stella. Latin or Italian for star.
To accurately describe Stella Public House, I felt it necessary to deliver the definitions of each piece of its name. Stella Public House is a East Village pizzeria serving up farm-to-table pizzas and salads, with craft beers worthy of San Diego. The restaurant may be named Public House, but the atmosphere is far from a dingy pub, and is instead clean, modern, and open air.
Notice that the porch overlooks Fault Line Park, a new place in the East Village for plenty of fun activity. With a playground, pizza, and beer, I'd call Stella a perfect restaurant for parents of young children.
More important than the atmosphere -- the food. A place can have a great look, and be parent friendly, but what's really the point if the food isn't amazing? Rest assured, the food at Stella Public House is, well, stellar. Brick oven pizzas, salads, and appetizers make up a simple menu of whole food ingredients, freshly prepared onsite. If that doesn't tempt you, how about a bevy of craft beers?
Stella Public House keeps it beyond respectable with craft beers and cocktails to pair nicely with the food, or not, if you want to go the liquid route.
The two beers pictured are on a theme of orange: Refuge Blood Orange Wit (left) and Monkey Paw Creamsicle. The Blood Orange was sweet, light, and a great beer for someone that is more of a cider drinker. The Creamsicle was perfect, smooth, and just a little sweet. I enjoyed both of them (I had a dinner companion who allowed me to share!), and honestly, it was hard to narrow the list down with many great choices on tap, as well as alluring cocktails.
We started off with some arancini, nice big rice balls coated in mozzarella, then deep-fried and sauced with marinara. This is drinking food at it's best, a bit of high brow and low brow mixed together. The ingredients are simple: a bit of cooked rice, some cheese, roll them in flour and fry. However, the result is so much more than just a dish to use up leftover risotto rice (the origin of arancini). Add some parmesean, some sauce, and it becomes downright comforting and craveable. Stella adds some proscuitto to the mix, because really, what isn't improved with some proscuitto? Eat with a fork, as they are large and messy, but so worth it.
A simple mixed salad is my favorite, with romaine lettuce and mesclun greens. This salad also included gorgonzola cheese, pinenuts, tomatoes, and what else -- fried proscuitto. I told you, it only makes things better. If you are a vegetarian, it can easily be left off of this salad. The salad was easily enough for two people to split before pizza, or for one person as a meal.
It was time for the main event! All of the pizzas were appetizing, and it was hard to pick just one, but my stomach isn't bottomless (despite all evidence otherwise) and we chose the spicy Italian fennel, with ricotta cheese, spicy sausage, and arugula. As far as traditional toppings on pizza, this one knocked it out of the park. The sausage was homemade little bombs of flavor, with a clear taste of fennel and spicy red pepper. The ricotta was mild and balanced the boldness of the sausage and the sharp green of the arugula.
The crust was homemade, charred to perfection in a Neapolitan oven, thin and a bit crispy, but chewy at the edges. The pizza was a true testament to San Diego's ever-growing brick oven pizza scene, surpassing expectations in texture and flavor. I'm anxious to return and try out the other varieties, most notably the Summer Squash pizza, featuring grilled corn, squash, and sausage.
Of course we had dessert! I might not have a bottomless stomach, but I'm more than willing to take one for the team and try out a sweet! Tiramisu gets me every time, and not only was this one amazing, it was huge! Definitely something to split or have as dessert for dinner.
The tiramisu was a perfect, classic take on the dessert, which is just as it should be. Layers of rum-soaked cake with layers of fresh whipped cream, topped with espresso powder and cocoa. Yummy yummy. A grown up dessert for sure with the espresso and rum, but sometimes it's nice to not have to share.
As I stated before, I'm anxious to return and try out more of their pizzas, and the location is magnificent! Highly recommend this new addition to the ever-growing East Village of downtown!