The Early Word: Stellina Is a Gelato Fantasia
Yesterday, we discovered that Stellina had finally opened. Earlier today, we stopped by the bakery café, which is the younger sibling of Sorella next door. We'd been hearing for months that its owners, Emma Hearst and Sarah Krathen, were planning to do all sorts of wonderful things with gelato, and we're happy to report that they have.
Stellina's gelato case is stocked with 10 flavors of gelato and two sorbets, and the gelato has to be the happiest gelato we've ever seen. It's a hybrid of Italian tradition and American irreverence, which means it comes in flavors with names like Bananimal and Cinnamon Toast and is carpeted with plentiful chunks of animal crackers, chocolate-covered pretzels, marshmallows, peanut brittle, and brownies. Purists may be annoyed, which is fine, because that means there's more for everyone else.
After much deliberation, we got a scoop of Bananimal and a scoop of La Strada. The former takes banana gelato and mixes it with the aforementioned animal crackers, while La Strada is milk-chocolate gelato adulterated with peanuts, marshmallows, and brownie bits. Two scoops set us back $5, which seems to now be the going rate in these parts. Although their slightly melted consistency suggested that the gelato case was kept a little warm, their flavor was unimpeachable.
Bananimal offered banana flavoring so robust we wondered if the fruit had been roasted, and the animal crackers were a satisfying (and satisfyingly juvenile) complement. La Strada was similarly delicious, though the gelato acted predominately as a binder for all of the bits it contained. That said, we find it difficult to complain about an abundance of brownies, marshmallows, and peanuts, regardless of how much gelato they're crowding out.
We also tried a tuna sandwich. Stellina's spin on the pescatarian stalwart is to mix the fish with diced roasted red peppers and onions, sliced hard-boiled eggs, parsley, and tonnato sauce, and serve it with watercress leaves between two somewhat diminutive slices of seeded whole-wheat bread. The bread, which is made in-house, is wonderful, thanks to its toasty, crunchy crust and soft, full-flavored crumb. And the fish is spot-on too, savory and faintly lemony and boasting expertly balanced ingredients. Still, the $11 price tag gave us significant pause; yes, it's a good sandwich, and, yes, it comes with a little bag of potato chips, but for $11, we'd rather that little bag be filled with more tuna.
Lastly, we tried an oatmeal milk chocolate hazelnut cookie, pictured below. Ringing in at $3.50, it was also on the pricey side, but, like everything else we ate, incredibly good. It's of the crunchy-chewy variety, and tastes an awful lot like gianduja, the hazelnut-chocolate spread that birthed Nutella back in the 1960s. Like everything else at Stellina -- from the star-studded wax paper and pink menus to the bright, whitewashed walls and the friendly staff -- it's a happy thing.
Stellina 95 Allen Street 212-274-9555
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