Monday, April 8, 2013

Stella 34 Trattoria at Macy's Herald Square

So many beautiful things have been happening with the renovation of Macy's Herald Square, that one would think they could not work any more miracles. Then they open Stella 34 Trattoria, a beauty of a restaurant on the sixth floor overlooking Herald Square.

The view into Stella 34 from inside Macy's.

There is something magical about a department store restaurant, right? It evokes a different era of shopping, one that perhaps involves matching hats, gloves, and handbags. But the department store restaurant has been making a comeback, and Stella 34 has entered the lists with major style. 

The caricatures, the windows, and the view out the window of Herald Square.

Our digital team visited Stella 34 for lunch on opening day, and sampled a variety of dishes from this modern trattoria. Overall, it was an A+ dining experience. The waitstaff was knowledgeable, attentive, and guided us well with recommendations. The restaurant's ambiance is lovely. There is a lot of light (check your makeup before entering), feels very roomy, and is elegant but not stuffy. Once a diner walks into Stella 34, the shopping floor of Macy's is left far behind and a chic dining experience immediately begins.

Below are comments from my three dining partners, all of whom have had many more foodie experiences in Manhattan than I as they are all under 30 and actually go out to dine, as opposed to eating at home on a kiddie table while using ketchup to get the 3-year old to finish her dinner. Please enjoy their candid thoughts:

Bufala Mozzarella (mostarda di cremona), above bottom and top
K: "This was really good, and almost tasted like it was drizzled with honey? I have no idea what mostarda di cremona is. It’s not mustard."
A: "My favorite piatti, light but flavorful."
N: "A really refreshing starter."

Caponata (eggplant relish), above top
K: "Would have skipped this dish."
A: "Also could have passed on this one, but don’t generally like the texture of eggplant anyway."
N: "I was a fan of the caponata, great seasoning on the eggplant."

Arancini (fried risotto balls), below
A:  "Unsure about the curry flavor, but otherwise anything fried is good in my book."
N:  "Not my favorite. Too many overwhelming flavors that didn’t blend well for me."

Strozzapreti con Seppie (twisted cuttlefish ink pasta), and Tortiglioni (ridged tube pasta), below
K:  "First one [strozzapreti] was adventurous, second one more traditional. Both really good."
A:  "Loved, loved, loved the tortiglioni – not too rich, ham had touch of saltiness to balance the cream."
N:  "Both the strozzapreti and the tortiglioni were memorably delicious. Great texture, lots of flavor, cooked perfectly, great portions."

Diavola pizza, (san marzano tomato, salami piccante, mozzarella, pecorino-romano), below
K:  "I was fooled into ordering this, which turned out to be pepperoni (duh)."
A:  "Thought the dough was a bit soggy, wished it was crispier."
N:  "I actually really liked the dough and crust of the pizza. I like thin crust, I just wouldn’t get pepperoni again but would try the Barese pizza (tomato, sausage, broccoli rabe, and smoked mozzarella)."

Vivoli gelato

N:  "We had pera (pear) and stracciatella (chocolate chip), SO GOOD! Pricey, from Florence, but the stracciatella was worth every bite. Would definitely go back just for a scoop while I shop."

Takeaways: Get the handmade pastas, delve deeply into the piattis (small plates), stop by for gelato daily, and "salami piccante" is pepperoni. Also, Stella 34 has an extensive wine list and takeout and gelato counters for Midtown diners' convenience. Hello, home of all future 34th Street lunch meetings.

Stella 34 Trattoria
Sixth floor of Macy's Herald Square