8 New Restaurants That Opened During the Pandemic
They're worth a visit, and our dining critic has a few suggestions about what to order.
I had to stare at the two Roman-style artichokes from Stellina Pizzeria for a minute just to take in their beauty, aware of how much work it took to prepare them. Chef Matteo Venini deftly trims each vegetable to leave only the tender center leaves, the bottom and the long stem. Each is then dredged in a light dusting of flour and deep-fried to resemble a crispy flower, with a bright side of herb mayo.
The 2,000-square-foot pizzeria, which opened in February, is the second outpost for Venini and co-owner Antonio Matarazzo. (The first opened in D.C.’s Union Market in April 2019.) “I live in Penrose and was looking for a space in Virginia,” Matarazzo explains. Shirlington’s walkable, village-like atmosphere felt just right.
Molly Allen of Allen Studios in D.C. designed the casual restaurant, which seats 75 inside (on two floors) and 20 outside at full capacity. The exterior features floor-to-ceiling windows surrounded by patterned Amalfi Coast tiles. Inside, two vast murals—one of Sophia Loren, the other of Italian actor Totò—grab your attention.
So does the food. The centerpieces are Venini’s Neapolitan-style pizzas, whose dough requires a two-step, four-day fermentation process before pies are baked in a Marra Forni gas oven. His signature is the cacio e pepe, a sauceless pizza topped with buffalo mozzarella and two sheep’s milk cheeses (cacio di Roma and pecorino), plus lots of black peppercorns, toasted and then ground with a mortar and pestle.
The menu has other standouts, too. Among the pastas, try the squid-ink chitarra with seafood in a zesty tomato sauce. My favorite salad is the brassica, a toothsome ensemble of ingredients from that vegetable family—charred rapini, broccoli leaves, red cabbage, watermelon radishes—tossed in a purée of cooked mustard greens, watercress and rapini and topped with pistachios and ricotta salata cheese.
Unlike the flagship location in D.C., Stellina Shirlington doesn’t have a bar (don’t worry, they still serve alcohol). But it does have a deli counter where you can stock up on house-made pastas and sauces, salumi, cheeses and tiramisu to take home. //Stellina Pizzeria, 2800 S. Randolph St., Arlington (Shirlington)