Stellina, a swanky new Italian restaurant headed to Old Montreal next week, wants to become known for pastas so intricate and finessed they convey to diners the labour that went into their making, co-owner and Montreal restaurateur Massimo Lecas tells Eater.
He’s joined by partners from his restaurant group Novantuno — meaning “ninety one” in Italian, signifying the year they opened their first establishment, St-Laurent Boulevard supper club Buonanotte — and chef Jonathan Agnello.
“There won’t be any tricks or shortcuts with the pastas here,” Lecas says. “I don’t want to demean any other restaurant — because I have those other restaurants, too — but sometimes it’s all about the presentation. In this case, it’s not. It’s all about how hard it was to make that tortellini, one by one, on our own, every single day.”
That’s one reason the team opted for an open kitchen strategically placed right at the entrance of the Saint-Jacques Street restaurant and visible through the window to anyone walking by. “The minute you come in, it’s the first thing you’ll see,” Lecas says, referring to Agnello, who’ll be stationed there, poring over each morsel of hand-rolled dough.
Stellina’s menu is being kept under wraps until the restaurant’s November 11 debut, but Lecas says diners can expect to be acquainted with pasta shapes seldom seen in the Montreal dining scene. The scarpinocc, a stuffed pasta meant to look like an old-fashioned wooden shoe that originated in the northern Italian region of Lombardi, is one example. The capunti, an Apulian form resembling a pod slit vertically and hollowed of its beans, is another.
“What I can say is that there won’t be any rigatoni or many of those classic shapes of pasta that you’ve seen over and over again. It’s going to be a little more researched,” Lecas says.
Lecas says Stellina is Novantuno’s first real attempt at fine dining, after having turned out (now defunct) supper clubs like Buonanotte and Globe in the ‘90s, multiple locations of pizzeria Fiorellino, and meaty Little Italy sandwich shop Porchetta, among others. “Okay, maybe Stellina isn’t a three Michelin-starred restaurant with carpets on the floor and linen on the tables, but I think it’s very elegant,” Lecas says.
For the look, the group has enlisted the Gauley Brothers, a firm that this year alone has executed designs for nearby Mediterranean restaurant Sauvage, day-to-night casual-chic Italian haunt BarBara in Saint-Henri, and the new Griffintown outpost for upscale sushi restaurant Ryu. At Stellina, expect creamy blue leather sofa seating, exposed brick walls, and mirrored ceilings for something that Lecas says boils down to “our version of high end.”
Stellina will open on November 11 at 410 Saint-Jacques Street.