The Place: Smack dab in the heart of the Byward Market, Stella is a large, handsome room with a few warm touches, including a large flower arrangement, chocolate coloured cushioned seating, and plenty of natural daylight flooding in during the afternoon. The pulse of dance music infuses the cavernous space with an energy that nods to its notoriously bustling nocturnal nature.
The Deal: The lunch menu, which deals in pasta, pizza, manly sandwiches, fishbowl-sized salads, and a handful of hot and hearty entrees, is pure Italian-style comfort food served with flare. Dainty appetites need not apply. Wander in on a Tuesday and you’ll discover, as I did, that all pizzas and draft beer is half price! There are six equally enticing pizzas to choose from, including one with shrimp and grilled pear and “The Stella” with confit chicken, grilled leek, caramelized onion, goat cheese, arugula, and ricotta.
The Dish: The Prosciutto di parma pizza starts with a thin, crisp, pliable Mascarpone-laced golden crust. (Good crust: check.) It’s topped with petals of fried prosciutto, providing a crunchy-salty foil against the nutty arugula and creamy-sweet fresh fig slices (Artfully applied ultra-fresh toppings: check.) Tons of shaved Parmigiano Reggiano rounded out the flavour in complete harmony (Real Parm: check.) The whole thing is enhanced with a dab of homemade herb oil, redolent with fennel seed and oregano. The Price: $16 (but just $8 on Tuesdays!).
I was equally pleased with Stella’s classic Caesar salad, with its crunchy romaine leaves, vibrant vinaigrette that doesn’t hit-you-over-the-head-with-garlic, fine fat croutons, a disc of crispy pancetta, and more of that great Parm.
Stella Osteria, 81 Clarence St., 613-241-2200, www.stellaosteria.com