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Jul 12, 2012 06:40 AM

Stella D'Oro (Middletown, CT): new & noteworthy

Shhh. Quietly, about a month ago, when you weren't watching or listening (due to very little fanfare or publicity), M'town opened yet another Italian restaurant. I know, I know, but IT'S REALLY GOOD--at least our first visit was. We arrived at 12:45 and we were the only customers! One other couple was there by the time we finished. So, let's let the cat out of the bag, so to speak (!). This place shouldn't remain a secret for long.

Their original location, by the way, is in Old Saybrook (neither of us has been). New location is in the same parking lot with our giant movie theater (formerly Destinta), next to Puerto Vallarta...was most recently Big Mike's (?).

The bread, nice and warm, was served with a tomato/garlic/oil...yummm! Crusty outside, soft within. Almost shaped like a Portuguese roll. Always a positive sign to start the meal with great bread. Each meal came with a nice-sized salad--another plus. Pleasant service, too, while we're racking up points.

I had smoked chicken ravioli in a creamy pesto sauce with shiitake mushrooms and roasted peppers. They were quite excellent and plentiful enough to take some home! I had a bite of Pollo Scarparello with sausage, roasted peppers and artichoke hearts. Tender, flavorful, generously portioned. Lunch prices are comparable with Fiore II and food is just as excellent. I look forward to lunching there again. M'town folks--look for a coupon in your mailbox for 50% off. I have one in my wallet for next time. :)

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  1. That's good news. I would love to have somewhere to go pre or post movie close by that is NOT Puerto Vallarta, which I have tried and tried to like.

    I had been to the Old Saybrook location once, but it was for a work luncheon and it was more a sampling of their catered fare, which was good, if I remember. Good, not great. Not a great way to judge a restaurant, per se.

    1 Reply
    1. re: dennisl

      We like Stella Doro's in Old Saybrook but for some reason, they do not attract a broad customer base. I was there last Saturday (normally a busy restaurant night) and there were about three tables occupied in the main dining room and two people eating at the bar. From Katty's report, it sounds like the Middletown branch is off to a similar start. But to be fair, it's early. Hope they make it!

    2. I have ALWAYS enjoyed my meals and service at Stella Doro in OS.
      I missed it while it was gone, but must admit to not having had a chance to go back

      I wonder if they have the same menu and owners?

      7 Replies
        1. re: kattyeyes

          Received a Shoreline Perks e-mail this morning for $20 get you $40 at Stella D'Oro.
          (This is for the Old Saybrook location.)

          1. re: dennisl

            Thx for the tip. Just bought one.

            1. re: dennisl

              thanks! so the fine print is vague - do you think this is one per person or one per table?

              1. re: few

                Looks like it says one per visit to me.

                (Note about the Shoreline Perks: I have bought a few and do recommend reading the fine print first if you can. I bought one for Pizza Works in Saybrook to then find out it isn't valid on the weekends, which is when we would typically go.)

                1. re: dennisl

                  Nearly 2 months after Kattyeyes post, we had almost the same experience on a Friday afternoon at around 12:30PM. My wife and I arrived and found the restaurant entirely empty though one other couple arrived shortly thereafter. We were seated at a white table clothed table for 4 by our friendly waitress. I had checked the menu on line prior to arrival and there was no luncheon menu listed so we were truly playing it by ear. Prices were moderate, but included a mixed green salad. We were started off with a pair of large, warm hard rolls and olive oil with garlic and spices. Our mixed green salad were tasty with my wife choosing a Balsamic dressing with gorgonzola while I chose the house vinaigrette. My wife ordered vitello saltmbocca - tender pieces of veal layered with prosciutto and spinach in a light cognac brown sauce. I chose the pollo scarpello - several good sized pieces of boneless of chicken sauteed with roasted red peppers, slices of lean Italian sausage, an amazing number of artichoke hearts in a garlic and white wine sauce. Each dish was executed close to perfection. Hopefully others will soon discover this hidden gem of a restaurant because I seriously doubt it is currently operating profitably. .

                  1. re: westie

                    'Hopefully others will soon discover this hidden gem of a restaurant'...YES, PLEASE! This restaurant deserves to succeed. Just wish they'd get their act together re marketing as word of mouth seems to be spreading EVER.SO.SLOWLY. And not as if you can see it frm the street. Your lovely pics are making me hungry, westie!

                    ETA: So I am going right now! :) Thanks for the nudge.

        2. The good news is--at least on this past Friday night--the dinner scene was much busier than lunch. Vongole Casino as a starter was delicious. Only misstep was the practically raw garlic therein. For my entree, I thoroughly enjoyed the Vitello di Corinaldo--tender, egg-battered veal scallopini, topped with prosciutto, fresh mozz and roasted red peppers in a lemony white wine sauce. The portion was quite generous. The other half is in my fridge for another meal. Another stella d'oro for Stella D'Oro!

          4 Replies
          1. re: kattyeyes

            My wife and I dined at Stella D'Oro this past Sunday at around 2PM when there were only 2 other tables occupied. The chef/owner greeted us and led us to a table for 4 Tables are set with white tablecloths and vases containing fresh roses. The dining room is long and narrow though the tables are set too close together. I would think a professional decorator would suggest removing a few tables and breaking up the room with a room divider or two. In any event, we are there for the food which did not disappoint.

            The meal got off to a good start when our waiter served us 2 hot, crunchy rolls that were soft on the inside and accompanied by a delicious olive oil and roasted red pepper dipping sauce. This was followed shortly by an overdressed house salad with Gorgonzola dressing. At this point, we would have been happy to just finish the rolls and skip the entrées.

            Fortunately, we showed restraint because our entrees were larger than anticipated. My wife’s vitello alla Stella D’Oro contained 3 good sized pieces of veal topped with roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, winter tomatoes and mozzarella in a brandy cream sauce. My vitello Saltimbocca included 4 generous sized pieces of veal topped with prosciutto over sautéed spinach in cognac brown sauce. The veal in both dishes was very tender and each entrée was very good. My, admittedly minor, sole complaint was there was not enough prosciutto to entirely cover each piece of veal.

            Prices are more than reasonable and service was professional.

            1. re: westie

              Lookin' GOOD! We need to get back there soon--thanks for the reminder (again!). :)

              1. re: kattyeyes

                This is an old thread, but I just went a couple of weeks ago.

                A Saturday night, reservations made for 7 people for 7:00 for my daughter's birthday.

                In a nutshell, the food was fabulous, the service was some of the worst I've ever encountered. Ranging from indifference to dowright hostile- did our waitress have an evil twin in the back? She initially forgot a drink, fine. 6 of us received our entrees, never said a word about the 7th. Never checked on us after we were served, never smiled, was very cold. 45 minutes after we had eaten we asked for a desert menu, she was VERY ticked off. 20 minutes later she came back and asked us if we wanted the check- no desert menu. The bussing staff were fine. There were only about 7 tables. Were we her last one? Did she just want to leave? I will never return. My husband (who is not a good tipper and generally needs my prodding to leave more, as a former waitress) left the tip. I never asked what it was, didn't care.

                It's a shame, the food was so good. I also see their Old Saybrook location is for sale.

                1. re: dennisl

                  Were other waitresses acting the same way? Did you report it to the manager? There is no reason for poor service but I also would not write the place off because of one bad experience especially if the food was so good.

          2. Sorry to report that Stella D'Oro in Middletown has gone out of business. We had a Groupon and decided to go there tonight for dinner because Mrs. Mensch and I were concerned that "they might go out of business soon." I knew it was a bad sign when I checked their website this morning and it was gone. Calling them on the phone was another bad sign when I got a recording saying "your call cannot go through....try again later." Sure enough, we found the place empty. The guys at Puerto Vallarta next door told us that Friday was their last day. Too bad because the food was quite good but the fact that there were a lot of good Italian restaurants already well established in Middletown when Stella D'Oro arrived didn't help them.

            4 Replies
            1. re: chowmensch

              NOOOOOOOOOOOOO! GEEZ, that's a shame. I'll miss them. :( Sorry about your Groupon, too. Not a great past couple of years for restaurants in M'town, that's for sure.

              1. re: kattyeyes

                I think Groupon will either refund our money or give us a Groupon for another restaurant of equal value.

                1. re: chowmensch

                  That's good to know. I hope you're right--thanks for sharing that info in case it happens to anyone else reading along. Take care, chowmensch. :)

              2. re: chowmensch

                Damn, October was rough on Middletown restos:

                Stella Doro
                Michael's Deli