Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Went to Stella's last night for a wonderful dinner with some friends. The food was outstanding; when you go try the kreatopita - seasoned beef with bechamel sauce wrapped in filo dough. Our party declared the crab cakes the best in the city.
But what strikes me about Stella's is that it is as much about the communal act of sharing food as it is about the flavor (which is all there nonetheless.)
The light wood panelling and furniture, and well done lighting give the place a warm glow that sets a convivial mood. There are a variety of seating arrangements - back to back with your neighbors, side by side, and a beautiful marble topped community table which occupies the center of the space, and has been full each time I've visited. We were seated at the one 'private; booth - toward the back with a low, perforated screen that gives a sense of intamacy without cutting you off from the generall hubbub.
Its been a very lively place at each visit. Last night there was not an open table until we were leaving around after a leisurely meal. The general noise of conversation creates an atmosphere of community, but you are still able to hear your own party, even at the side-to-side tables along the front (I have not yet sat at the community table, but people were talking, not sitting in overpowered silence.)
The portions are about sharing, too. Any of the individual entrees is plenty to share family style (especially the tasty Pastichiatho - Greek spaghetti.) And the Meze or small plates are not that small and well worth sticking to. If you can't think of something to talk about - the food will definitely spark conversation.
I like to think of building as a fundemental human act (might be a personal bias;) but Stella's makes me question that assumption. The sharing of food together may in fact be the foundation of cities. The sense of community that act fosters maybe compels people to make a place that it can happen again.
Stella's is a worthy example of such a place.