It is impossible for me to see or hear the name “Stella” without picturing the scene from A Streetcar Named Desire where Marlon Brando shouts “Hey, STELLA!!!!!! STELLA!!!” So naturally, I was curious about how Ogden’s American & Italian Bistro called Stellas (no apostrophe) got its name.
Owner/Executive Chef Geraldine Sepulveda speaks especially fondly of two Stellas employees who she worked with for many years prior to the opening of Stellas. Their names are Abraham and Isabel and Geraldine is grateful for their hard work and loyalty through the years, calling them “stars.” Chef Sepulveda is originally from Chile and in Spanish the word for stars is estrellas. Stellas is sort of an Americanized version of estrellas, referring to the three stars who are the cornerstones behind Stella’s restaurant – Geraldine, Abraham and Isabel. Of course, she’s quick to include her entire team in her grateful praise, and rightly so with excellent staff members like Tammy, a manager who served my wife and I flawlessly during dinner last weekend.
We chose to enjoy Valentine’s Day dinner at Stellas as it offered an amazing value: a four-course gourmet meal priced at a mere $55 per person with an additional $15 for four optional wine pairings. That’s a deal that can’t be beat!
Obviously, not all of the dishes I’ll mention here from the Valentine’s Day menu are available regularly at Stellas, but it’ll give you an idea of the quality of the food there, which is outstanding, as is the service and ambiance. Spoiler alert: Until Zucca Trattoria – where Chef Sepulveda previously worked – closed, I was of the opinion that it was Ogden’s finest Italian restaurant. Now, I think that about Stellas. It’s that good.
For our dinner at Stellas, my wife selected the Tartare di Tonno for her antipasti course. It was a beautiful presentation of minced, sushi-grade raw ahi tuna which was marinated in sesame-ginger sauce, served atop paper-thin cucumber slices with fresh avocado, local microgreens and julienned wonton crisps. It was as delicious as it sounds and looks.
I opted for a Caprese salad for my antipasti, paired with Coppola Bianco Pinot Grigio. It was a duo of tomato slices topped with fresh basil and mozzarella, served with thin slices of prosciutto di Parma, drizzled with aged balsamic reduction and olive oil. Accompanying the dish were small squirt tubes with additional balsamic in case I wanted some extra drizzle.
The second course – Primi – was sensational. It was Ravioli di Aragosta, paired with Beringer Chardonnay. This was large homemade ravioli stuffed with lobster and creamy cheese, topped with a duo of outstanding sauces: a saffron sauce and lobster bisque. Perched upon the ravioli was a single, crispy fried basil leaf. This was a truly wonderful dish, and one I’d love to see added to the regular Stella’s menu. By the way, my wife – who is gluten-free – was also able to enjoy the exquisite ravioli since Chef Sepulveda was kind enough to make her ravioli with gluten-free ingredients, from scratch.
In addition to a softly lit, romantic dining room with an exhibition kitchen, Stellas also has a brighter, cafe-style dining area. But that’s not all. Take the elevator or stairs down to the basement level and you’ll discover The Underground, which is a space for private parties and gatherings, as well as a speakeasy called 225, that prior to the pandemic seated 25 diners in an intimate setting.
I admit that I was a bit jealous of my wife’s Secondi (entree) selection: Dover Sole Ripieno di Capesante e Granchio. What the hell is that? you might ask. Well, it was a blockbuster dish of oven-roasted Dover sole that had been stuffed with crab and scallops. It was served with grilled asparagus and a cauliflower puree, topped with a lovely hollandaise sauce with licorice-like hints of tarragon.
I said I was jealous of my wife’s entree. But then, mine was a home run as well. I opted for Costolette di Agnello, which was two perfectly cooked – slightly pink in the center – pan-seared, herb-marinated lamb chops. The thick and meaty chops came with a rockin’ three-cheese risotto, cherry tomato confit, microgreens and a scrumptious Barolo wine sauce. The beverage pairing of Silver Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon rounded out the dish perfectly.
The portion sizes of the dishes at Stellas were very generous, and I couldn’t quite imagine being able to eat dessert. However, when my dessert plate was placed in front of me by Tammy, I swooned. It was gorgeous.
Dessert was called Crespelle con Crema al Mascarpone e Frutto Della Passione. And, even if your Italian isn’t so good you can probably tell that it was light and airy passion fruit crepes with creamy mascarpone, served with a chocolate heart filled with mixed berries coulis and fresh raspberries. What a delightful dessert! As it turned out I managed to eat all of it and pretty much licked the plate clean. And, we very much appreciated that Chef Sepulveda – remembering my wife’s gluten-free preference – made her a separate dessert with most of the same ingredients, but without the crepe – a really nice touch.
Stellas – which was a movie theater and a Chinese restaurant before Chef Sepulveda and her team turned it into a classy dining destination on Ogden’s Historic 25th Street – is worth a visit even if you’re coming from SLC or elsewhere.
Recalling how much I enjoyed Geraldine’s cooking at Zucca, I can’t wait to return to Stellas to try menu items like her Margherita pizza, risottos, entrees such as cioppino and chicken Marsala, as well as pastas like frutti di mare, linguine alle vongole, tagliatelle Bolognese, butternut squash ravioli, and others. One thing is for certain: I won’t be waiting around until Valentine’s Day to return to this gem of an Ogden restaurant.
Photos by Ted Scheffler and Courtesy of Stellas
Culinary quote of the week:
“Everything you see I owe to pasta.” — Sophia Loren
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THIS CONTENT IS FROM UTAH BITES NEWSLETTER.
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Originally trained as an anthropologist, Ted Scheffler is a seasoned food, wine & travel writer based in Utah. He loves cooking, skiing, and spends an inordinate amount of time tending to his ever-growing herd of guitars and amplifiers.
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