Braised Short Ribs with Mascarpone Polenta; Carpaccio All' Albese; Truffle-Stuffed Gnocchi with Brown Butter and Sage Sauce
Occupation: In-Flight Training Manager
Location: Redwood City
Favorite Restaurant: Stella Alpina Osteria
Reviewed Stella Alpina Osteria: Saturday February 16, 2008
Our evening was nothing short of perfect. As always, Alisa (owner/proprietor) was a smiling face and hug when we walked in the door. She had the perfect table ready for us on the quaint heated patio. We started with a great wine suggestion from Yamila (one of the best servers in the Bay Area) of a 2005 Liberty School Syrah. The wine list is extensive with prices for all budgets. They have an interesting selection of Italian wines and local variety.
We had the Stella Alpina escargot, which was baked perfectly with olive oil, garlic, shallots, and parsley. The escargot was fresh and flavorful, and we enjoyed it all with crusty bread. I have had escargot at many types of restaurants with mixed results, but this was one of the best. The Insalata Stella was crisp and tart with butter lettuce, walnuts, gorgonzola, cranberries, and fresh citrus vinaigrette. For the entree, the braised short ribs melted in my mouth as they fell off the bone. The balance of the baked rigatoni pasta dish with the short ribs was the perfect pairing. The truffle oil mixed well with the Parmigiano crust. I am a wary diner when I see anything with "truffle" on the menu as it can feel like I am being bought. The use of truffle oil in this restaurant's dishes are perfectly stated as a background, not foreground. Portion sizes were spot on for two people to share. The mascarpone polenta was a perfect side to the short ribs. For dessert, a decaf cappuccino with caramel gelato was a sweet (not overpowering) end to the meal.
The evening was, in one word, awesome. Service, quality, and taste were all top notch. The music was appropriate. Service was not intrusive, yet very attentive. The restaurant was very clean and appealing (even the bathrooms!). The table had fresh roses. Every time I go to this restaurant I sit down excited to enjoy the taste experience. It is a true representation of Italian Alps cuisine. Matteo, the owner/chef, stepped out of the kitchen twice to make sure we were enjoying everything. This is a restaurant to go and enjoy a relaxed meal. We dined over two and a half hours. I suggest taking your time to enjoy each course with the incredible wine. I highly recommend you check this place out!
Occupation: Human Resources Director
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Bette's Oceanview Diner
Reviewed Stella Alpina Osteria: Saturday February 23, 2008
It was a dark and stormy night...it was! But we braved the elements and drove in our City CarShare down to Burlingame for an early Saturday evening reservation at Stella Alpina Osteria. We were greeted warmly and it was obvious that they treat regulars like family.
After being seated at a cute corner table by the windows, our very friendly server told us the specials and gave us a little time to make our decision. Deciding was tough, we both love Italian food, but we settled on the carpaccio and the special truffle stuffed gnocchi with brown butter and sage sauce for starters, I chose the veal osso buco special for my main, and my sweetie chose another of the specials, a house-made pasta with shrimp and mushrooms.
A bit of warm bread was placed on the table and shortly our starters arrived. The carpaccio was wonderfully light and clean tasting with the Parmigiano a salty and rich compliment. The gnocchi were a show stopper; they were absolutely amazing. I was sad to share but was happy to have bread to sop up that tasty butter sauce after the fluffy truffle clouds were gone.
The osso buco and pasta came out and, on very hot plates, were placed in front of the orderer without question from someone helping our server. It's always nice when you don't have to raise your hand like in grade school so that you can get the dinner you order. The osso buco was velvety and delicious and the house-made pasta eggy and very good.
We shared a tiramisu for dessert and had the most Italian tasting cappuccinos we've had since our honeymoon to Italy. A nice little anise biscotti was fun to find next to each cup.
In summary: the food was very good. It was what I imagine food would be like if I had an Italian grandmother. The downer was the drive down from San Francisco; I couldn't have the wine that I would have loved to pair with our meal. One other irritation was a very loud table next to us that kept arguing with each other, but I certainly don't fault the restaurant for that.
I would definitely eat here again (especially during truffle season) but would hope to rope someone else into driving.
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Chou Chou
Reviewed Stella Alpina Osteria: Tuesday February 19, 2008
Well, this concluded a perfect "three for three" as far as I'm concerned! Despite its longish name, "Stella Alpina Osteria" was an elegant yet homey experience in every way.
A very intimate setting, slightly below street level, gives it a bit of a "speakeasy" feel. The smallish tables for two or four, each with miniature roses on the table, combined with a tiny bar area give this place a clubbish atmosphere that was special. We were pleasantly greeted (a "must" for me), and immediately given the night's specials by an attentive and informed server who took our drink orders.
One of the marks of a good Italian restaurant is how well they make a Negroni, an cocktail of equal-parts gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari with the all-important hint of orange. This concoction could NOT have been better prepared! So many places do not take notice how important the first few minutes in a restaurant are; suffice it to say, we were off to a good start!
My wife eats light -- normally ordering two appetizers instead of an entrée -- so she opted for the Insalata Stella, which had butter lettuce, cranberries, walnuts, gorgonzola, etc. She seemed very happy with that. She followed with the Polenta and Gorgonzola Gratinata; she adored that dish, saying that there was "no way" she would finish it, but she amazingly did.
For purposes of this report, I wanted to try a different salad and was most pleased with Insalata di Bietole, a delicious beet salad that was rich with gorgonzola yet cut nicely with a honey mustard vinaigrette. My entree special --short ribs with a mascarpone polenta -- was outstanding. Totally "off the bone" beef, again "cut" with a gremolata -- a combination of parsley and lemon peel -- to keep the richness at bay. This was really worth the high recommendation of our server.
Our accompanying wine service of Chianti and Pinot Grigio were equally great choices, and the dessert! Tiramisu can be too rich at times, but this was just right: ladyfingers, cream, and a bit of liqueur made it truly their "signature" dessert.
You know, being a city native and seeing my share of Italian cuisine, a lot of times one will have preconceived notions of what a suburban Italian restaurant may have to offer, but "Stella Alpina Osteria" dispelled all of that. A classy presentation, knowledgeable, polite staff, and excellent food prepared in a richly yet in no way "over the top" fashion. A definite "rewind." I'm glad I had a chance to experience it as I will again soon!