Inside Stella Barra Pizzeria
The sister restaurant to Summer House Santa Monica is scheduled to open Feb. 12 at Pike & Rose
The margherita pizza at Stella Barra Pizzeria in North Bethesda.
The partners behind North Bethesda’s new Summer House Santa Monica will open their second restaurant next week–Stella Barra Pizzeria.
And if Summer House gives off a bright, airy, beach-like vibe, then Stella Barra is its opposite, with a more industrial, dimly lit, warehouse-type look. It also differs in price, featuring a menu of less expensive casual fare—pizzas, salad and appetizers including crispy brussels sprouts and baked goat cheese.
The pizzeria is scheduled to open Feb. 12 adjacent to Summer House at Federal Realty’s Pike & Rose development.
The restaurant is the fourth Stella Barra concept opened by Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises (LEYE), a Chicago-based restaurant company that operates dozens of concepts across the country such as Bethesda’s Mon Ami Gabi and Summer House. Jeff Mahin, Francis Brennan and Chrisopher Meers, a Bethesda native, are the LEYE partners behind Summer House and Stella Barra in North Bethesda.
Mahin, 31, launched the first Stella Barra location at a 12-table space in Santa Monica, California, about 3½ years ago. The concept later expanded with locations in Chicago and Los Angeles.
Mahin says he thought up the concept as a way to branch out from the high-end fine dining restaurants where he learned to cook. He wanted a more approachable, casual restaurant where more people could afford to dine regularly.
He had never made pizza, though. So he says he tinkered with crust recipes for about six months. He enjoys making bread and he says he brought similar techniques to his pizza dough.
“We took a scientific approach to making the pizzas,” Mahin said. The restaurant uses a wheat flour for its dough, which is allowed to ferment (the yeast eats the sugars, which gives off carbon dioxide and causes the dough to rise) for about 18 hours, before it’s put into single-serving deli jars and sealed, allowing the dough to further “proof” or rise.
The result is a crust that’s crispy on the outside, but airy like freshly baked bread on the inside and relatively thin in the middle, Mahin said. The dough is baked in a bread oven for about 14 minutes. The pizzeria’s red sauce is composed of pureed organic tomatoes cold-steeped with herbs and spices in cheese cloth, rather than simmered at a low temperature as many pizzerias do, Mahin said.
The pizzeria will offer a variety of pies, ranging from red pizzas such as the margherita (mozzarella, basil and olive oil) and pork sausage to white pizzas featuring spinach and kale. Pizzas are priced around $14 and are big enough for two people to share, according to Mahin.
He said the price point for the restaurant is about $30 per person for a salad, a glass of wine or cocktail and a shared pizza. The restaurant seats about 80 people and is smaller than the adjacent Summer House. There’s a bar featuring an Italian wine list and a big garage-door window at the front that can be opened when the weather is nice.
The chef at Stella Barra in North Bethesda is Darren Underway, who worked at the Chicago location for a year before relocating to Maryland. The restaurant is located at 11825 Grand Park Ave, North Bethesda.
Chef Jeff Mahin preparing a pizza at Stella Barra Pizzeria.
Summer House Santa Monica is adjacent to Stella Barra Pizzeria
The front garage door window looks out on Pike & Rose.