Stellina Pronto in downtown Petaluma offers ‘high east coast Italian’ worth getting excited about
Caiazzo and Fried didn’t meet for a month or two, but when they did, they felt an immediate connection.
Within a year of meeting Fried had changed gears and ribs, and was working remotely from Point Reyes Station, both as a freelance writer and as a North American editor / publisher a German travel book company. Due to Caiazzo’s joint custody of her two children, the family moved to Petaluma in 2013. Caiazzo and Fried would marry a year later.
In August 2020, after keeping the restaurant alive for months during the pandemic, Caiazzo decided it was time to shut down. Her final farewell letter “When the Osteria Stellina Closes” to Point Reyes Light was as heartwarming as it was heartbreaking.
But that wouldn’t be the last chapter for Stellina. How could he? “Stellina” means “little star” in Italian and is the middle name of Caiazzo’s daughter.
“Ever since he moved to Petaluma, Christian had always thought about opening a place here,” Fried recalls.
Enter Stellina Pronto.
They started cooking in the fall of 2020, but it wasn’t until June 2021 that they opened their doors to Petaluma customers and have since received not only rave, but passionate reviews.
“The reception here in Petaluma has been overwhelming. This is more than we could have hoped for, ”he said.
The couple seem to know the majority of their customers already, but it’s no surprise after witnessing their interactions for just a few minutes. Watching them, we see Caiazzo speaking Spanish to Margarita, an employee who has been with him for over a decade. And then there’s the customer who hands in an extra $ 5 – “I owe you the other day,” she said.
You would never guess that Fried has no formal experience in the restaurant business, however, he’s clearly made for it and in a very special way. His interest in interacting with all of his customers and really getting to know them probably wouldn’t work in a restaurant in a big city, but in a small town bakery like Stellina, that’s exactly what the chef ordered and what to do. local customers gravitate.
We recently stopped in Stellina for an olive oil cake. After confirming to us that it was to share at a party, Fried asked us to hold on tight while she held him behind the back. She returned a few moments later, having tucked the cake in a pretty box and wrapped a beautiful bow around it. She also recommended an easy topping of mascarpone whipped with Grand Marnier.
While others have tried to run a bakery in the same location since Bovine left, none have been able to create the family friendly atmosphere of Stellina Pronto.
Caiazzo aptly describes Stellina’s cuisine as “the fine Italian of the east coast”.
“We are not strictly ‘Italian’ cuisine, but we certainly pay tribute in that sense. “
I couldn’t agree more with him, as I stood there listening to him, while enjoying a meatball sandwich I had bought for lunch. It was clearly a meatball sandwich, through and through, but with better bread, cheese, and meat than your average sub. However, it was not overdone or too intellectual. If you fancy a meatball sandwich this will definitely fill the bill and probably top my favorites list simply because every part is slightly elevated above your meatball sandwich, but still delicious. .
“It’s Christian’s culinary sensibility,” Fried adds, never skipping a beat as she continues to help the seemingly endless line of patrons. “He just makes great food without too much ado about it.”
While Della Fattoria leans towards the French side of things, Stellina Pronto is a nice addition as it leans more towards the Italian. Both are true to their roots, but also remain true to our local flavors and palettes. If Petaluma wasn’t already a baker’s mecca, Stellina Pronto will certainly help him become one.
Stellina relies on three main pastas for its baked goods – coretti, croissant and brioche. Coretti work well with both savory and sweet, but with a hint of lemon zest, they tend to work best with sweet pastries. The croissant dough is used for things like morning rolls and sausage rolls, and the brioche is the perfect bread for their pork pun, which is a recent special addition to their menu. The Niman Ranch pork bread is braised for six hours with anchovies, garlic, and vegetables and shouldn’t be missed whenever it appears on the specialty menu.
The pastry crate is clearly the main event and, for most of the day, is a work of art in itself. With a strong aesthetic sense, Fried strategically keeps the case filled with plenty of eye candy, pulling shelves of freshly baked goods as often as possible, flowing through items during lulls in the line.