Pasta Pomodoro and Il Fornaio may be reliable Italian standbys, but I was looking for something a little more chic but not too high end. Basically, something a little different.
Enter Stella Alpina Osteria in Burlingame. I’d heard about this place and driven by it several times, so when my husband’s sister requested Southern Italian food, it was the perfect choice.
It is definitely a cute little place. The atmosphere is definitely well-to-do, but the decor is very low-key. We walked in without reservations and they gave us the evil eye, despite their having a considerable amount of empty tables. Fortunately, they redeemed themselves with quick seating and a smile.
The menu is diverse and we started with a beet salad, beef carpaccio, and escargots (strange for an Italian menu) to share. The salad was the weakest appetizer with it’s honey mustard vinaigrette. The sweetness seemed too much for the already sweet, yet slightly undercooked, beets. Not a good combo. But the other two were tasty.
For entrees we ordered the osso bucco special, roasted rabbit, and orecchiette with mushrooms, speck (which I now know is a type of ham) and asparagus. My husband’s fave dish of the night was the pasta with its rich parmesan cheese sauce, but my fave was the Osso Bucco with it’s deep earthy gravy that tasted like something out of your Italian grandmother’s kitchen. And the accompanying marscapone polenta was divine, not only because of its luxuriously creamy texture, but because the Osso Bucco sat on top of it so all its gravy mixed in with it. Yum-yum! (And I don’t even like polenta!)
The rabbit was tender and juicy, but it could’ve used a tad bit more salt. The meat itself was just a slight bit bland.
The food alone has now made Stella Alpina Osteria my fave Italian joint on the Peninsula. It was definitely up to snuff and I would come back for a special night out. But it’s not without its faults…
The prices are a little steeper than its quaint and cozy persona implies (entrees run $15 (pasta) to $28 (lamb chops)). Service is a bit slow too. And like I’d mentioned earlier, the pretentiousness at the front door is a definite turn off. It probably comes from the fact that the clientele looked like they’d all returned from an afternoon at the country club.
But I digress… ;)