Stella D’Argento Offers Northern Italian Cuisine
Stella D’Argento has occupied the same location on Astoria Boulevard and 90th Street in East Elmhurst since 1945 and in a world that is forever changing, is a great place to enjoy traditional northern Italian cuisine in an old world setting. The dark, wood paneled interior is illuminated by frosted glass sconces and chairs upholstered in red wait for diners at tables dressed in crisp, white linens. The dining room could pass for a set from a classic movie, but Stella D’Argento is the real thing. Nicola, also known as Nick, manages the dining room and knows all the steady customers by name. Her welcoming manner makes tourists spending a few nights at nearby hotels feel at home as well.
The food at Stella D’Argento is as fabulous as the setting. I recommend beginning with a bottle of wine, selected by Nick, and a platter of hot antipasti for two, laden with exquisite eggplant rollatini, filled with fluffy ricotta cheese, crisp baked clams, golden breaded shrimp and mussels oreganata. Soak up the savory juices with warm, crusty Italian bread—you’re in for a treat. Chef Jorge also prepares marinated mushrooms with fine olive oil and balsamic vinegar—the best I’ve ever had. In fact, these mushrooms are so popular that many customers order a container to take home. A cold antipasto platter with cuts of salami, cheese, prosciutto and mozzarella offers a pleasing contrast to the hot appetizer platter. Steaming bowls of homemade minestrone, or my favorite, tortellini in brodo, are there for the diner’s delight as well.
One of Stella D’Argento’s most popular and well-executed dishes is the northern Italian tradition osso bucco. An entire veal shank is braised for hours in a special broth, to result in tender meat that falls off the bone. Osso bucco is accompanied by a generous helping of homemade gnocchi, potato dumplings drizzled with the sauce from the meat. The Stella D’Argento version of this satisfying dish keeps me and many other patrons coming back again and again. Other veal dishes include saltimbocca, layered with paper-thin prosciutto, mozzarella and spinach in a buttery sauce ($18). Veal Stella D’Argento adds eggplant, mozzarella and prosciutto to tender veal sautéed in a light brown sauce. From the grill come juicy sirloin steak and thick cut, tender pork chops. All meat entrees come with freshly sautéed vegetables or pasta.
There are always wonderful seafood dishes on the menu such as shrimp scampi, sautéed in garlic, butter and white wine. Daily fish specials such as red snapper or fresh salmon are served broiled or “mare chiara” style with a sauce of fresh plum tomatoes, basil and onions. The shrimp marinara in a zesty tomato sauce on a bed of linguine is superb. One of the most popular dishes is the linguine frutti di mare, which includes scallops, shrimp, calamari and clams in a light tomato sauce over a mound of al dente linguine ($20).
Of course, pasta is a hallmark of any Italian restaurant and Stella D’Argento is no exception. Their specialties include fettuccine carbonara, a Roman dish of ribbon pasta in a creamy sauce flavored with Italian bacon and egg. Homemade manicotti, tender pasta crepes rolled and filled with fluffy ricotta, are baked with tomato sauce and mozzarella. Tortellini alla panna, in a rich cream sauce, is a northern Italian favorite—and mine too. Stella D’Argento’s lasagna, with layers of rich meat, cheese, pasta and tomato sauce, is a homemade classic.
Difficult though it may be, try to save room for one of Stella D’Argento’s tempting desserts. Moist cheesecake, creamy tiramisu and ice cream treats such as tartufo and tortoni are among the selections available. A cup of steaming espresso or cappuccino and perhaps an after-dinner cordial make a fitting end to a superlative meal.
Near the bar, a more informal room with tables dressed in checkered tablecloths allows for quick, casual dining with a separate menu. This is a great way to eat when you’re on the run. But, if you want to enjoy a relaxed, memorable meal with old world charm and superior service, I urge you to visit or revisit Stella D’Argento, which means “Silver Star”. They’re open seven days a week from Noon to 10 p.m. and credit cards are accepted.