Stella 34 Trattoria
151 West 34th St (Macy's Herald Sq, 6th Fl)
City: New York, NY
Phone: (212) 967-9251
Site: Visit the restaurant site
Chef: Jarett Appell
Area: West 30s
Macy's has grown up and so has the restaurants it houses. Travel to the sixth floor of Macy's Herald Square and you arrive at Stella, an upscale Italian trattoria next to the linens section. I jokingly asked the hostess if we could be seated at a table facing the Empire State Building and was jokingly denied. Instead, we wound up facing a wall with caricatures of famous people, including Martha Stewart and Usher. That kinda describes the crowd you will find at Stella, everything from young people on a date to tourists and older folks with money to spend.
The restaurant is magnificent with huge white pillars. There is a pizza station, with not one, but three wood-fired ovens going at the same time. There is ample seating for a quick meal at the bar or a nice glass of wine. Service here is first-rate and fast, but not rushed.
I'm always a little wary of restaurants that hand deliver bread by the slice. I prefer a basket. At Stella, two rather small slices are placed on each plate. But the bread is fresh and tasty. A small can of virgin olive oil is available for drizzling. Appetizers operate in a similar fashion; small but good. The special during our visit was roasted octopus ($11) on a bed of tahini with bits of prosciutto. We laughed a bit at the three bite-size pieces of octopus on the plate along with a thin, slightly burned piece of tentacle. But the flavors are there. We literally fought over the last crunchy deep-fried chickpea on the plate. Needless to say, the dish was gone in a heartbeat. A clam pizza ($18) proving much more substantial for sharing. The crust was magnificent, the clams fresh and a sprinkle of preserved lemon zest livened up the entire dish. Stella also offers a nice assortment of cured meats and cheeses.
For our main courses, my son thoroughly enjoyed his Cresta di Gallo, a bright green fan-shaped escarole pasta with San Marzano tomatoes and large chunks of fresh lobster. At $23, the dish is priced right. I went for the house-made Porchetta ($30) which included two large rounds of moist pork with crispy crackling around the edges. Each slice sprinkled with white truffle shavings and served on a bed of creamy polenta. Loved it. My wife ordered the steak which is only sold as a service for two. The huge plate arriving with its own little entourage. One of the servers, as if surprised that my wife had ordered it, remarked, "You go girl." There were six thick slices of ribeye on the plate cooked in one of those wood-fired ovens. It was one of the most spectacular pieces of meat I've had in quite some time, perfectly marbled with just the right amount of gristle. It’s served with whole Yukon potatoes, sautéed mushrooms and a very rich mushroom mousse. Even at $65, the dish is well worth every penny.
This is not the place to pass up on dessert even if it's just a small cup of one of their handcrafted gelatos and sorbets made by Italy's Vivoli il Gilato. The pear version tasted like the fruit had just been plucked from the tree. You can also buy it from a stand just outside the restaurant. A deconstructed tiramisu is interesting, but more creamy than coffee. The cocoa nib brittle on top was an instant hit, as was my Affogato; two scoops of gelato with hot espresso poured on top.
A sign of a good meal is feeling content even after seeing the bill. I felt that at Stella.
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Review By: Thomas Rafael