Dish of the Week: Stellina Pizzeria’s cacio e pepe pizza

Media Credit: Isha Trivedi I Photographer

The menu includes plenty of options for vegetarians, like the basilico alla genovese pizza, which features toppings like sundried tomato pesto and fresh mint.

Stellina Pizzeria’s hybrid fast-casual sit-down vibe along with its bright and colorful furniture and wall decor sets it apart as the ideal place to enjoy Italian food with a modern twist.

With locations all across the D.C. area including Mount Vernon Triangle, Union Market and Shirlington, Virginia, Stellina Pizzeria is easily accessible for locals across the region, including GW students who can visit the Mount Vernon Triangle location with a Metro ride or a brisk walk from campus. On a weeknight, Stellina Pizzeria is a spot to snag dishes inspired by Italian street food if you’re looking for something a little more upscale given its prices and level of service, while still enjoying a fun and colorful aesthetic.

Modern furniture and floral wall decor that compliment the restaurant’s bright red chairs and barstools were my first sights upon entering the restaurant, giving it a modern vibe that contrasted some of the classic dishes on their menu. Though I happened to stop by on a rainy day, the Mount Vernon location – which opened last month – provided expansive outdoor seating with umbrellas and reliable shade at every table.

Stellina Pizzeria also offers a loaded happy hour experience with a deal to purchase one drink, a 10-inch margherita pizza, house-made chips, arancini – a Sicilian rice ball dish – and mozzarella in carrozza – fried mozzarella sticks – all for $20. Though my friend and I decided on the cacio e pepe pizza, any patron can opt for the happy hour special Tuesdays through Fridays from 3 to 6 p.m.

Stellina Pizzeria also offers a wide array of paninis and pasta dishes ranging from classics like their lasagna to new dishes like the “Stellina ‘fili’ cheese steak,” served at the Union Market location and made with rib eye, smoked mozzarella, caramelized onions, pickles and roasted peppers on a traditional sub. The menu also includes plenty of options for vegetarians, like the basilico alla genovese pizza, which features mouthwatering toppings like sundried tomato pesto, fresh mint and pistachio.

We started off with the focaccia bread ($4) as an appetizer, which was a much thinner and almost flaky bread than most focaccia I’ve had, but it was still a solid appetizer to get us excited about the meal to come. The bread was crispy and light, and the minced garlic brushed onto the top was a pleasant addition.

The cacio e pepe pizza ($17) – the restaurant’s signature dish made with Cacio di Roma, pecorino Romano, mozzarella and toasted black pepper – was the real star of the show. The fresh cracked pepper on top contrasting with the density of the cheese was enjoyable, and unexpectedly so given the sheer amount of cheese.

The pizza crust was fluffy while still crispy and flavorful, and it effectively complimented the intensity of the cheese and cacio e pepe sauce. The pizza came with six slices, which ended up being enough to satisfy the hunger of two people.

To round out our meal we ordered a piece of tiramisu ($10) off the dessert menu. The dessert came with dark chocolate espresso beans sprinkled on top, which was a gratifying pair with the espresso-soaked ladyfingers and the light mascarpone cream. With a dusting of cocoa powder on top, the bitterness of the dark chocolate balanced well with the sweetness of the cream and left us wishing we had ordered one slice per person.

Stellina Pizzeria is the perfect spot for a vegetarian-friendly meal with a slightly more upscale vibe than its neighboring Sweetgreen, and it manages to use basic ingredients to create largely authentic Italian dishes for a wide audience.

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