New eatery open in Food City shopping center

Occasionally, a newly opened restaurant gets past the 60-day grace period I give the new business to settle in. Recently, my dining partner and I were coming back from a trip to Southwest Virginia on the Bristol Highway (US Highway 11E) when we spotted a new tenant in the space formerly occupied by Big Bob’s Pizza.

The new tenant is Stellar Pizzeria. In business almost a year, Stellar Pizzeria’s owner Arlene and our server Samantha are still busy putting the final polish on the pizzeria’s “settled-in” bright work.

Stellar Pizzeria is located in Piney Flats’ Food City shopping center. The sign over the door is in large letters and, when lighted at night, can be easily seen from the Bristol Highway. There is plenty of parking available.

Inside, Stellar Pizzeria has an order and takeout counter set up just in front of the double doors to the kitchen. Menus are available on the counter for customer use. The pizzeria seats about 60 in booths and tables, with the restrooms located at the rear of the dining area.

Grab a menu from the takeout counter, and follow the friendly Ms. Samantha to your table. Give Samantha your drink order, ask her about the daily specials, order appetizers if need be and, menu in hand, decide what your partner and your tummy will be enjoying.

As usual, my dining partner and I decided that we would each order a different entrée item and then share it between us.

Appetizer: Stellar Pizzeria House side salad

As an appetizer, my dining partner and I decided we’d share one of Stellar Pizzeria’s side salads ($3.50), a cold and crisp mixture of shredded iceberg lettuce, ribbons of green bell pepper, white ringlets of onion, slices of carrot and of cucumber, chunks of chopped, fresh mushrooms all under a thick snowbank of shredded mozzarella cheese and a random sprinkling of crunchy croutons.

With a splash or three of some balsamic vinegar and olive-green olive oil, our appetizer salad deserved every appellation except that of being a mere “side” item. My dining partner and I agreed it was the best way to lead off our evening meal.

Uncle Mike’s Homemade Lasagna with garlic bread

To check out how versatile Stellar Pizzeria’s kitchen was, and to give my supper with my dining partner some variety, I ordered the Uncle Mike’s Homemade Lasagna from Samantha ($9.95). Samantha returned 15 minutes later with a white porcelain pasta dish filled to the rim with Uncle Mike’s bubbling tomatoey red sauce and melted parmesan cheese, and left a saucer holding two slices of garlic-buttered Italian bread easily within my reach. After several vigorous cooling breaths on the lasagna came my first steaming forkful.

I found that Uncle Mike’s Homemade Lasagna, though long on red sauce and ground beef crumbles, wound up short a layer or two in the noodle department.

True, what was there in my porcelain pasta dish was tasty, but the lack of additional wide pasta strips gave the unmistakable impression that what Uncle Mike had created was not lasagna but rather a homemade tomato and ground beef stew.

Still, I found the garlic bread very helpful in my finishing my meal, as was the extra napkin placed to protect shirtfront and lap.

Calzone with chicken, ricotta cheese, onions, spinach and mushrooms

While I was holding inquest on Uncle Mike’s Homemade Lasagna, my dining partner had chosen her usual first-timer entrée order in an Italian restaurant, a calzone ($9.50) made with a filling of chunked white meat chicken, ricotta cheese and onions.

Having the calzone “her way,” my partner substituted spinach for the calzone’s usual green peppers and, for an additional 75 cents, added some sliced mushrooms to the mix.

My dining partner had made a good choice for her entree, as the calzone’s innards were blended in the right proportions to each other before being folded into the calzone dough and sealed within. The ricotta cheese worked well with the chicken, providing a salty counterpoint to the pungent onions and the earthy, garden-fresh flavors of the spinach and mushrooms.

Even the calzone’s outer doughy shell was baked properly, a light brushing of egg wash giving the baked dough a golden crispiness, delicious texture and flavor.

The bottom line:

My dining partner and I had a very good evening at Stellar Pizzeria. The restaurant is easy to find, the interior is pleasant and relaxing, and Samantha provides excellent and friendly service from a kitchen staff who (with one minor exception) know what they are doing with oven, stove and saucepan.

Give Uncle Mike a little more time, and everything will be just fine.