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Stella Restaurant and Bar Opens in the Dolan Plaza

Learn more about the new Italian restaurant in Bethel.

When head chef and manager Michael Pedicini goes to work every day at Stella Restaurant and Bar, his late grandmother Maria is on his mind. That’s because many of the dishes he makes at the restaurant, which recently opened in town at 213 Greenwood Avenue in the Dolan Plaza, are inspired by her.

“My grandmother was an immigrant of Italy. She was your traditional stay-at-home grandmother. While I was growing up in Stamford, she taught me the basics of cooking Italian food,” said Pedicini, of Bethel, who has worked at restaurants throughout Ridgefield and Bethel for 20 years.

Stella is next door to Peachwave self-serve frozen yogurt, and in the former location of Pancho's & Gringo's, which has closed.

The owner, Ava Agolli, said her family has worked in the restaurant business for 30 years, specializing in Italian food. They are co-owners of Prespa Restaurant & Bar on Mill Plain Road in Danbury, which has been in business for five years. 

From 1989 to 2004, the family owned the former Prezzo Restaurant in New Canaan, and from 2000 to 2004, they owned the former Mirabella restaurant in Ridgefield.

“We built everything in this place from scratch. Our bar is made from 150-year-old cherry wood,” said Agolli, a Danbury resident.

The restaurant—whose name means “star” in Italian—seats 105, and has a year-round outside patio that seats an additional 50 people.

Dinners include “medallions di vitello con agra dolce,” which is pan roasted veal medallions topped with sweet  and hot pepper sauce for $22; and pollo alla fungi Stella, which is semi-boneless marinated grilled chicken served over roasted potato and porcini mushroom hash for $19.

The meatball and shaved parmigiana antipasti dish “polpette delia Nonna” is taken directly from Pedicini’s grandmother’s recipe.

The menu also includes antipasti dishes such as gamberonini grigli, which is marinated prawns in Sicilian chardonnay; as well as salads and pasta. In addition, customers can order specialty pizzas that cost from $12 to $19.

“We use all locally harvested produce in our dishes,” Agolli said. One farm where the restaurant gets its many of the ingredients is Cherry Grove Farm on Platts Hill Road in Newtown.

According to Pedicini, Stella’s serves Northern-based Italian cuisine.  

“I take classic Italian food and bring it to age," he said. "I use a lot of French and Asian inspired techniques in my dishes. 

“I don’t use any store-bought product. All the products I use are as from scratch as you can get. Also, I don’t use tomato-based and cheese-topped Italian products. It’s not traditional Italian (styled-food) to put cheese over meat,” Pedicini added.

Customer Kathy Guariglia of Redding said she dines at Stella’s for lunch or dinner every day.

“Everything on this menu is wonderful. The veal scaloppini is so lean. It’s just like butter. You can cut it with a fork," Guariglia said.
"The pasta, meatballs, and sausages are just like my great grandma’s, and the salmon dish is served on a plank with wasabi sauce. It’s out of this world."

“My husband Carl and I are pure-bred Italian. My great-grandmother Katherine (who lived in Westport) taught me how to cook. These dishes taste just like hers did,” Guariglia added.

Agolli, who was a former school teacher, said the camaraderie she has with her customers is what she enjoys most about the restaurant business. 

“I’m a giving person and nurturing people is in my character," Agolli said. "My own family lives back home in Macedonia (Yugoslavia), and I miss them very much. This is why I feel my customers are a second family to me. When I provide food for them, I feel just like a mother in her kitchen, making food for her family.” 

Stella Restaurant and Bar, located at 213 Greenwood Avenue in the Dolan Plaza, is open for lunch from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Saturday; and for dinner 4 to 10 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday to Saturday, and 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday. Call 203-797-8131 for more information.

Melissa October 25, 2011 at 12:02 PM
My husband and I celebrated our anniversary at Stella a couple of weeks ago and it was a fantastic experience. You can have a nice meal at many Bethel restaurants, but this is the place to go if you want an amazing meal that you will remember. The Chef takes all his dishes to a five-star level. You have to try this restaurant - we can't wait to go back!
Carolyn October 25, 2011 at 02:40 PM
Being a "pure-bred" Italian myself, I'm looking forward to it. However, I wonder if they have a less expensive lunch menu?
--- October 25, 2011 at 03:07 PM
So looking forward to dining here! Northern Italian cuisine is wonderful, and I am familiar with Chef Mike's cooking from his days at La Zingara. Being a culinarian, I am hoping Stella can pull off a more upscale Italian dining experience, apart from the normal Italian fare available right now. I learned to cook in Piemonte, so I am ever critical, but am also open-minded at the same time when it comes to Italian restaurants. Here's hoping for the best!
CJ October 25, 2011 at 03:19 PM
I thought it was very small inside, so tight at our table in the corner that the waitress had issues with serving our food! Our waitress didn’t impress us either, very slow. I also thought it was a bit $$$$ and VERY LOUD in the restaurant. We had 6 people in our party.
Jiminy Cricket October 25, 2011 at 04:12 PM
I love the food! Farm fresh ingredients for sure - worth the price. My fave is the salmon or the veal. Be sure to try the sausage on the app menu - it's unreal! Love the fact I can have a great meal but still catch the football game on Monday nights. Atmosphere is great - nice woodwork. Very friendly and knowledgeable bartenders.
Tara LaDore October 26, 2011 at 02:55 PM
The ambiance is wonderful, the bar is cozy and the food is great! Especially the veal and the pasta dishes. The cheese appetizer (with figs) is delicious. I'll agree with many that the prices are high but in my opinion, it's on par for the area and for what you're getting. No offense to the former Panchos, but it's a delightful addition to the Bethel downtown scene!
Maria October 26, 2011 at 03:51 PM
Oh My Goodness!! ANOTHER Italian restaurant in BETHEL? What is that now....13 or 14?? I am 100% Italian but COME ON....what about diversity? What about a greek restaurant or....(GASP) an Indian Restaurant? I wish the new owners much success and my rant doesn't relect on them personally...but I'd like to see another type of food in Bethel.
Carolyn October 26, 2011 at 04:01 PM
Actually, only three of the "Italian" places in Bethel are really owned and operated by Italians that offer a genuine tast of Italy, as it were: Debenardi's, LaZingara, and Laurentano. The others are Portugese, Greek, Iranian, or (insert some South American place) run. Certainly there is no *Northern* Italian cuisine in town. That said, I'd love an Indian place. But we are lucky to have a great Japanese restaurant, a couple of nice coffee shops (O'Neils and Molten Java), and a great American-style cafe (Biksbee's). I do miss the Mexican food, but honestly, Pancho's and Gringo's was filthy, which was why I stopped going there. It would be nice if Pancho's Tacos (of Danbury) could open a branch here in Bethel, wouldn't it?
Paul Improta October 26, 2011 at 06:53 PM
I wish them well. Haven't tried them yet. I'm glad for the review because there hasn't been really any buzz, and I am happy to hear the good reviews.
Linda Tufts October 27, 2011 at 06:07 PM
food was good but it was not hot....luke warm steak is just alright....how about warm plates to keep the food hot....it does you a disservice not to serve your food hot.
Cathy McCullen October 28, 2011 at 03:47 PM
Yum Yum
Dalony Cutting January 22, 2012 at 01:03 AM
We ate at Stella's for the first time on a Fri evening about a week ago. We had a reservation for 6.30, prior to going to see a movie...the restaurant filled up over the following hour. I have to say I was disappointed, especially after we had been recommended to eat there! The service was very uneven and the lighting was unprofessionally low...so low that it was really very stressful trying to read the menu. One friend said they actually take a flashlight with them!..I had to ask 3 times during the meal for clean silver ware, once for a fresh knife, and twice for fresh forks . In the end I felt so uncomfortable at having to remind the waitress, that i got up and stole a set from another table! I had to ask for ice for the water, and ordered my "fillet mignon" Medium...It came Rare...and it was tough and I think most likely it was not fillet...certainly not prime fillet , if it was fillet at all. I had to then ask for it to be cooked a little longer. The meal was disappointing...the wine was good. We didnt wait for dessert or coffee, because all the waiting for this and that took so long we had to hurry out! Stars out of 5,....I'd give it a very generous 2, but 1 would not be inappropriate...for the wine.
Gregg Fisk February 15, 2012 at 07:57 PM
At the recommendation of friends my friend and I decided to try Stella's for his birthday dinner. We were overwhelmingly delighted! From the organic ambiance of the rustic wood bar, the lighting to the outstanding service at the bar our total experience was unmatched. The food was superb as was the service. This is our new favorite place. From a scale of 1 to 5 we give it a six.
Bill Hillman February 15, 2012 at 08:50 PM
Heard their staff smokes in the basement hallway, if true needs to stop!
Cathy McCullen February 16, 2012 at 04:58 PM
There is no smoking in basement, that is just malarchy from the other building tenants who complain about everything. By the way, have you ever eaten there ? I love the food! It gets better and better
Dalony Cutting February 16, 2012 at 05:42 PM
Just read the article in thePatch...and in answer to it, YES...I have eaten there. DISAPPOINTED! Service was LOUSY...and the fillet Mignon was TOUGH . I had to ask 3 times for a fork...and also for iced water. Lighting is TOO dark for real appreciation of the food and all in all we decided the restaurant needs a lot odf work to become what it clearly HOPES to be....I hope it will get it right, by learning from a few who did not enjoy the meal or the place. We dont mean harm...but some serious criticism may be in the owner's interests.
MBP February 16, 2012 at 06:16 PM
Actually, I was in the "other establishment" today and clearly smelled cigarette smoke coming from the basement.
Paul Improta February 16, 2012 at 06:26 PM
I'm always dubious about bad reviews, especially if they come with negatives that are subjective or un-proveable. I consider that some of these complaints might be coming from the competition or friends of the competition.
Carolyn February 16, 2012 at 07:38 PM
I haven't been to Stella yet, but who exactly is the competition that needs business so badly they'd make up a story like that? To the best of my knowledge, the other restaurants in the Plaza are very different from Stella--and from each other, actually--so I can't see how fueling a story about smoking in the basement does anything for them. This is all so ridiculous and petty. Bad reviews and good reviews alike all need to be taken into consideration. The best way to fight the bad ones is for a restaurant is to be pro-active in keeping a great establishment and then advertising.
Paul Improta February 16, 2012 at 07:59 PM
I wouldn't know who the anonymous reviews come from - I've seen quite a few negatives relative to the pizza establishments in town. Similar restaurants would include - and I'm not inferring any of these have made any comments at all - La Zingara, La Fortuna, Armando's and Rizzutos.
Anonymous June 03, 2012 at 02:09 AM
I arrived for a dinner on Mother's Day dinner and the food was EXCELLENT! I rate the restaurant FIVE STARS!!! ***** I would definitely go again for a another meal and I am looking forward to it very soon. Just one thing that I noticed that was not very pleasing. The Hostess had a very inappropriate dress for that occasion of a family restaurant. Her cleavage was showing and you could basically see her butt. That is not appropriate for families. To represent the town of Bethel,CT they need to dress in casual and classy formal wear. Other than that, you will enjoy your experience at Bethel!!!

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