At Stellina Pizzeria and Market in Arlington, Antonio Matarazzo and chef/co-owner Matteo Venini want you to be able to eat more than one of their pizzas in a sitting.
“Other places usually focus on quality of ingredients. We focus on, How can I enjoy a pizza without feeling so bloated?” says Matarazzo, who, to be fair, also pays a great deal of attention to his toppings. But the pair, who opened the sequel to their Michelin-recognized DC pizzeria in Arlington’s Shirlington neighborhood in February, have found that the answer to that question lies in 72 hours of fermentation. “You can eat two of our pizzas without issues,” he says.
The dough fermented for oh-so-long is unusually airy, like a stretchy Neapolitan pie on helium. It’s also a hair crisper than a typical pizza from Matarazzo’s native Naples, the reason for Stellina’s “Neo-Neapolitan” moniker for its pies. However, it would be a feat to eat two of the pizzas in a sitting. Not that it isn’t worth trying to.
That’s especially true of the Affumicata, a blend of smoked pecorino crema, smoked mozzarella, and smoked cherry tomatoes with salty speck (air-dried ham) and sweet poached pears. It may sound like overkill, but the combination is neither excessively smoky nor too rich. But why eat two when there are so many other delicacies to savor?
It’s a necessity to start the meal with one of the most appealing artichoke dishes in NoVA. The carciofo alla Romana actually combines that tangy braised vegetable dish with another classic Roman preparation, carciofo alla giudia, the fried artichokes popularized in the Eternal City’s Jewish ghetto. The result is a cardoon so tender that diners can eat the whole thing, stem and all. They’ll be eager to do so thanks to its crisp jacket.
But a couple of artichokes, albeit dipped in herbed mayonnaise, aren’t enough for diners to feel overfull. Eating an entire brasato di manzo panino might do the trick, though. The behemoth of a sandwich features a whole wine-braised beef short rib piled onto bread made from the same long-fermented dough as the pizza. The towering slab of marbled meat is sealed in place with nutty fontina cheese. What looks like a pair of mozzarella sticks is actually potato croquettes, which, combined with a handful of fresh greens, make this an entire upscale meal crammed onto a fluffy roll.
The wall-sized portrait of Sophia Loren might catch eyes, but those who want to continue the deliciousness at home would be advised to look just below the film star. Across from cases filled with pasta, meats, and cheeses, Northern Virginia’s first pasta vending machine is stocked with sauces, dried housemade noodles, and other take-home treats.
The excitement of inserting a credit card and seeing a jar of tiramisu pop out turns out to be well warranted. The dessert’s mascarpone cream is indulgent but not too sweet, with washes of coffee and chocolate both expertly applied. Sure, diners could eat two pizzas in a sitting, but they would miss so much.
The red-and-white logo lends its colors to the whole restaurant, from the pizza oven to the two-story mural of a young Sophia Loren and another, smaller one of actor Totò in his trademark bowler hat.
Carciofo alla Romana, pizza Affumicata, tiramisu
2800 S. Randolph St., Arlington
Open Tuesday through Friday for lunch and dinner; brunch and dinner are served Saturday and Sunday
Appetizers: $11–$19, Pizza and Pasta: $15–$19, Desserts: $8–$10