Stella Nonna - Berkeley

I’ve been liking this place since it opened. From a decent happy hour to grab a snack and a drink, to a full dinner, to an occasional lunch - for the most part, I like everything I eat there. Sometimes, we stop by for a nightcap, or a dessert.

Today’s lunch (which was actually with a business associate) consisted of an app of their chicken wings (these are some of the best wings around), and then I had a tostada plate. This was a new one for me on their menu. Vegetarian, and quite tasty (and filling).

We shared an easy-drinking bottle of Italian white.

My dining companion insisted on dessert, so I ordered the ice cream sandwich. (The ice cream comes from iScream on Solano.) The cookies are baked in-house, and are quite large, so much so that I removed the top cookie and brought it home. The pastry chef has been putting out some really good stuff. Hopefully the poppyseed cake will make a return soon. Dining companion had the lemon/berry torte and loved it.

I’d add this to the causal business lunch list - easy to have a decent conversation, food is good, and there’s a respectable selection of wine / beer / spirits.

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You inspired me to finally try this place. I think I remember buying ski pants there years go when it was the Wilderness Exchange. It’s nicer inside than I expected and not too noisy despite the hard surfaces. Really busy for a Sunday night, too. Good service.

We shared the wings and the calamari to start. Tasty, in a slightly trashy way – as was the main I shared. I don’t think it’s on the online menu. It was a sort of exploded chile relleno filled with creamy mac and cheese, with nicely crispy carnitas and a red sauce that mixed with the cheese. Served with tortillas or cornbread. We got tortillas but the dish really skews American more than Mexican, so I think cornbread would have been a better choice. My son though his lamb Bolognese was boring, but that was the only real miss.

Spicy margaritas were good. No room for dessert.

That dish has been on the menu pretty much since they opened (I think originally only with cornbread) and it was the first thing I ever ordered. When I was done, my comment was “I really like this, and I’m not sure why.”

We’ve also gone for the Friday fish fry a couple of times. It is a huge plate of food (almost too much for one to finish). I think the next time we’ll share a couple of starters and then share one fish fry.

We went for brunch for the first time in ages on Sunday, and really enjoyed our food. I had potato pancakes w/eggs - it was made almost Benedict-style - 2 large potato pancakes w/cheddar cheese on top, and then on top of that, 2 fried eggs with bits of bacon scattered about, and hollandaise sauce. House-made rye bread was great. Dining companion had the gumbo. I took a taste and it was very good.

They are now making pizzas at dinnertime and they are very good. I got a mushroom and arugula to take home (home is close enough that it doesn’t need reheating). Arugula is cooked (not cold leaves on top). Nice crust, nice chew to the dough. Quite tasty. Perfect for 2, with a salad or other side.

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