Top

dining

Stories

 

Stellar Stella

This spectacular restaurant is already a Heights institution.

For all of the fanfare and chef intrigue, Stella Sola has remained a resolutely laid-back restaurant that also serves as a comfortable neighborhood bistro. It often seems that for nearly every car that's valet-parked, another group has walked to Stella Sola from their home in the Heights.

"You know," remarked my girlfriend one night after dinner, "for as nice as Stella Sola is, it's also just incredibly cozy." We'd spend nearly three hours in the dining room gabbing over plates of pasta and wines such as the cheekily-named Flat Creek Super Texan — an appropriate wine for a Texas Tuscan restaurant, after all — and closed the place down around 10 p.m. Not once were we rushed; instead, other tables around us all seemed content to do the same.

In keeping with its bistro vibe, the restaurant is careful to recognize and remember regulars, lending a very personal touch to what could be — with its vastness and the type of high-end food it's turning out — a very impersonal kitchen. Sommelier Nathan Smith remembers his customers' favorites and often comes by with samples of new bottles "to play around with." And the bar area, separated by a giant "Meat Market" sign — tongue planted firmly in cheek — has become a neighborhood watering hole in its own right. Excellent cocktails with primarily Texas liquors and ingredients are a big part of the draw, such as the reliably refreshing Santos Cruz with Paula's Texas orange, tequila, balsamic vinegar and rosemary syrup.

Texan, Tuscan, delicious: a dal giardino salad and the Meatballs XL.
Troy Fields
Texan, Tuscan, delicious: a dal giardino salad and the Meatballs XL.

Location Info

Map

Stella Sola

1001 Studewood
Houston, TX 77008

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Heights

Details

5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays, 5 p..m to 11 p.m. Fridays through Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays.
• Dal giardino salad: $9
• Venison tartara: $14
• Meatballs XL: $18
• Wild boar ragu: $18
• Pork rib: $23
• Lamb T-bone: $28
• Roasted suckling pig: $25 per person
• Santos Cruz: $10


READ MORE:
• Get a glimpse into Stella Sola's fast-paced kitchen.
• Stella Sola: Behind the Review.

Stella Sola

1001 Studewood, 713-880-1001.

Related Stories

More About

I ate dinner in the bar last week with a friend who'd arrived dressed down after work. "They're not going to be upset that I'm wearing jeans and a Hatebeak T-shirt, are they?" he asked, a little intimidated by the restaurant's grand foyer and menu prices.

"No," I replied. Then, after a second, "This is Houston, after all."

And that might be what I love the most about Stella Sola: It's Houston, through and through. It's a restaurant that gets our city and its wonderful idiosyncrasies, but elevates its best qualities at the same time by marrying Texan food with Tuscan ideals while staying fresh and young. Yes, perhaps the menu itself is a little too pork-heavy at times (even the Texas quail is stuffed with suckling pig, and vinaigrettes for salads are made with pancetta), but it's all to showcase the excellent pigs we have around these parts. The same care is taken here with tender Gulf seafood as with pork, after all. And yes, maybe the prices are a little high, but I have absolutely no qualms about paying a premium for high-quality ingredients that also support local farmers, growers and artisans.

I believe that what Stella Sola is doing is groundbreaking in such a sly and subtle way as not to be immediately apparent. Its talent lies in taking national food trends — techniques and ingredients that you would see in places like New York City or Chicago — and weaving them in so skillfully and so subtly that they go virtually unnoticed by a casual diner here in Houston who's just out for a nice meal. The menu is straightforward, not daunting.

And you may not necessarily notice at first the tiny, yellow-tinged beech mushrooms in your venison tartara or the graceful arabesque of creamy mustard across its broad, white expanse of plate. But you'll instantly recognize how supremely lovely it is. And you'll be left with a reminder of time and place: Houston, 2011, Stella Sola. It simply couldn't be anywhere else.

katharine.shilcutt@houstonpress

« Previous Page
 |
 
1
 
2
 
All
 
My Voice Nation Help
11 comments
JodieE
JodieE

We go pretty often and dine at the bar. The spaghetti and meatballs in a mainstay for us (we share) as are all of the salads (except the Cesar, which I don't love). There are some other delicious pastas on the menu right now including a Taglierini with super-fresh gulf shrimp and crab. The greens they are serving right now (mentioned above) are so damn good, they are reason enough to go. I was sad to her of Justin's departure but thrilled to hear that another young, talented chef will be at the helm.

Sara
Sara

Maybe that is why you didn't like it, Andre. I love Stella Sola and Reef is very disappointing to me.

Andre
Andre

Wow - I'm amazed this critic loved the food. I went on a Tuesday night in a party of 10. We were celebrating the birthday of a chef that works with Monica Pope. We are all foodies and were expecting a lot more. I initially ordered one of their pizzas as a starter and the skirt steak as an entree. The pizza was simply crispy pizza crust with spinash and green olives. Tasteless and really was not what I was expecting. I sent it back and ordered the cesar salad. All that came on that dish was one piece of romaine lettuce that was soaked in dressing. Very disappointing. My main course was worse. The skirt steak overly salty and just overwhelmed the plate. The cornmeal gnocci was tasteless. It was a huge letdown. I've enjoyed eating at reef and was expecting so much more from this place. It's a shame.

Neighthundred
Neighthundred

Adam will do an awesome job. He's an amazing cook and I don't know anyone better to fill the very large shoes of Justin.

Innerloopdiner
Innerloopdiner

I wish i could say i feel as strongly positive about this place, I have given it a shot 4 times now and everytime the service is not great to poor, and the food has not been able to compensate. One thing is for sure though, as with Reef, I love the fair wine prices!

Rina
Rina

Katharine, any idea when Justin's last day is? Were hoping to get in there one last time before he goes...

Hugh Ramsey
Hugh Ramsey

glad to hear it is still going strong, I need to get back here

Ryamorris62
Ryamorris62

So, you like Stella Sola.

Actually I do too. Great food, reasonable prices for the quality.

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

I don't precisely know. When I talked to Caswell last week, it sounded as if Basye had put in a standard two weeks. I think this might be the last weekend to catch him, though.

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

I've always liked Stella, despite some bizarrely persistent rumors to the contrary.

Rina
Rina

We got reservations for tomorrow night, so hopefully we should be good. Thanks!

 
Loading...