Stellina Ristorante opens in Oyster Bay
“The first year I got into Michelin Italy, the inspector ate that,” said Fabrizio Facchini, speaking of his paccheri zafferano e pistacchio, a dish with an awesome, can’t-really-lose name, and yet you might be taken by surprise anyway. By the wide tubes of pasta luxuriating in saffron sauce, by the pistachio pesto. It was in 2012 that Facchini debuted in the tire company’s guide, when he and his wife Samira ran a small hotel and restaurant out of a 14th-century structure in the central part of the country.
A decade later, he is earning hosannas again across the pond, in Oyster Bay, where Stellina Ristorante opened in March. Between Facchini’s, yes, stellar cooking, the eatery’s 40-seat footprint and foreshortened hours of operation — five days a week, evenings only — Stellina often finds itself fully booked a week or two in advance, even with three seatings a night. Determined foodies and other next-big-thing types have resorted to takeout.
He and his business partners Tom and Adriana Milana, who moved to OB in 2020, also run Cardinali Bakery downtown, and the trio also bought the Syosset original.
“Tom always loved Osteria Leana,” said Facchini of chef-owner Peter Van Der Mije’s much-loved restaurant, which closed in 2020 and whose space Stellina now occupies. “I went with him to see it and thought it was perfect. Small space, cheap rent, large parking.” The name is an homage to another restaurant, Stella, a Floral Park staple that Adriana Milana’s grandparents founded more than 60 years ago.
So taken was Facchini by his new digs, he placed an order with Marra Forni, a renowned Maryland-based manufacturer of Neapolitan-style brick ovens, soon discovering that the gleaming gold-colored model he’d selected was too large to fit through Stellina’s door. Undeterred, Facchini had the oven delivered in pieces and built on-site, and the extra trouble was worth it. His pizzas have a crust that perfectly balances crunch and chew, and finishing touches both simple (Margherita, $15) and not (Wagyu bresaola, $20), the latter generously layered with beef paper-thin enough to make a meat pizza seem light. (Note Stellina’s emphasis on what Facchini terms “good ingredients at not-crazy prices,” welcome in these days of menu sticker-shock.)
Noodles, too, are a consistent draw, from the aforementioned paccheri ($30) to Facchini’s decadent agnolotti di vitello e tartufo, in which housemade pasta stuffed with veal lazes in a Reggiano cream sauce delicately finished with black winter truffle shavings. Elsewhere on the menu are shareable spuntini to include fried baby artichokes with lemon aioli ($12), sauteed shrimp and calamari in a spicy red sauce ($18), and Long Island-requisite meatballs ($14), here roasted in Facchini’s Marra Forni and rolled in a San Marzano tomato sauce. Main dishes run the gamut from a roast chicken with rosemary and thyme ($25) to a 16-ounce veal chop served Milanese-style ($59).
Like many of the best new chef-owners to set up shop here, Facchini did a tour in Manhattan, and that influence may be glimpsed in both Stellina’s food and feel. An open kitchen — a holdover from Osteria Leana — presides over a spare, contemporary dining room that, small though it may be, contains ample space for Stellina’s 10 tables. Facchini clearly loves it too, and can often be found wandering from table to table. “There’s a lot about cooking that people don’t know and are curious about,” he said. Facchini has held court on such topics as which tomatoes he prefers, when to use black or white truffles, what his favorite dry pasta is (Pastificio G. di Martino) and why (14-16 percent protein, 100 Italian durum wheat, no pesticides).
“It isn’t only about serving people and making money," he said, "but also education, transmitting a culture that I know."
Stellina Ristorante is at 76 South St. in Oyster Bay, 516-757-4989, stellinany.com. Opening hours are Wednesday through Sunday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Closed Monday and Tuesday.