The Other Critics

Craig LaBan Awards Three Bells to Stella with the Help of Ed Levine

In his review this past Sunday, Craig LaBan awarded three bells to Stephen Starr’s first stab at pizza, Pizzeria Stella, and declared that no other Philly restaurant “has refined the eat-in pizza experience with the single-minded focus, quality ingredients, and overall finesse of Stella.” He also dropped a one-sentence mention in there about Starr’s plans to open a take-out pizza shop next door to his Rittenhouse bistro Parc, which will serve a different type of pie than Stella - something larger and more New York-y. Speaking of New York-y, why did LaBan feel the need to defer to New York pizza expert Ed Levine in his review to confirm the pizza at Stella was worthy? We already know the pizza offerings here are puzzlingly lame, but having someone from New York come here to remind us how badly the pizza situation sucks is adding insult to injury. C’mon C-Dawg! founder Levine calls the pizza “very good” and is “pleasantly surprised.” This is what people from New York say about anything in Philly, when they actually bother to visit here, so take it for what it’s worth. LaBan thinks the “pleasantly surprised” part seems to have more to do with Starr himself than Philly:

“Levine’s qualifier of “pleasantly surprised,” however, certainly caught my ear. Even in New York, it seems, Stephen Starr (who runs mega versions of Buddakan and Morimoto there) has earned a reputation as a flashy impresario and concept collector who has benefited from the fact that Philly is perpetually a couple of years behind the national trend curve. It’s a sentiment I hear often from local foodies, too, who have been conditioned into a sort of reflexive Starr fatigue after his decade of domination.”

And why wouldn’t Starr have a reputation as a flashy impresario and concept collector? Until Stella, he’s opened up a series of flashy concept restaurants. Whether you love, hate or are indifferent towards Starr, his status as a restaurateur who works on high-profile projects with big-name designers, chefs and locations is anything but surprising.

Pizzeria Stella
Starr Plans Pizzeria Next to Parc [Insider]

Craig LaBan Awards Three Bells to Stella with the Help of Ed Levine