Stella House Salad
1429 Island Avenue, San Diego
“Linner” (a relaxed, late-afternoon feast that covers both lunch and dinner) is one of my favorite meals. Since David and I both work from home, our days have little structure. Sometimes we’ll wake early and have our usual yogurt with fruit and nuts breakfast and then work through lunchtime, only to poke our heads up at around 2 or 3 p.m. to realize we’re hungry.
Interior of the indoor/outdoor Stella
Wild Mushroom pizza
Inside Halcyon Coffee Bar, which shares the space
That’s when we seek out those restaurant gems such as Cantina Mayahuel that remain open in the dead hours between 2 and 6 p.m. We are glad to add Stella Public House to our linner repertoire.
It was just after 3 p.m. when we arrived and chose a seat in the shade overlooking the fairly new Fault Line Park, recognizable by the two giant metal spheres, a public art piece called “Fault Whisper” by Po Shu Wang.
Once we were seated, our server informed us that we still had time to take advantage of the lunch special (11 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays) — the house salad and a pizza for $15. That’s a good deal considering the salad is usually $8 and pizzas are up to $17 each. When I heard “house salad,” I expected plain lettuce with a few chunks of tomato and some kind of vinaigrette. But this salad, with walnuts, pears, cranberries, gorgonzola, and a creamy honey mustard vinaigrette all over fresh mixed greens, could have been a meal in itself.
We opted for the wild mushroom pizza with local mushrooms, roasted onions, and a blend of asiago, parmesan, mozzarella, and provolone cheese. The dough was crispy on the outside but chewy within. The richness of the mushrooms and cheese was cut and complemented by the sweet savoriness of the onions. All of the flavors were made better with the addition of a few pinches of salt, which we asked to be brought to the table.
We debated on getting the meatball pizza instead and ended up compromising by adding the lamb meatballs as a side ($10). I’m a mixer and matcher, so it brought me great pleasure to spread the herbaceous meatballs and tomato sauce (with a hint of nutmeg — a great combo for lamb) atop a slice of the mushroom pizza. It was the best of both worlds.
We ended the meal on an indulgent note with the Budino ($9), the Italian version of the pot de crème, a smooth rich chocolate pudding, this one with sea-salt caramel swimming within and fresh whipped cream on top.
The ambience was lovely, open to the outside, with a warm breeze wafting through the space. We could have lingered for a few more hours, sampling the array of craft beer on draft and waiting for the lights overhead to sparkle, but we had more work to do. At least, we agreed as we walked toward the car, we didn’t have to figure out what to have for dinner.