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Stella Barra, A Chicago Italian Chain With Wood-Roasted Foods in the Pike and Rose Development in North Bethesda


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Tonight, we headed to Stella Barra to try something different.  My wife and I used to secret dine for Lettuce Entertain You, and they hit on a lot of what we used to look for.  Greeted quickly, clean restaurant, glasses are clean, no smudges on salt and pepper shakers, waitress greets quickly, checkback after 2 minutes, bathrooms clean, etc.  Service is attentive but not pushy or overbearing.  Their restaurants are across the board professionally managed.  Their philosophy is that this might be the only meal of the year that the customer has out and we want to make it a great experience.  This is to the point where the almost care more about giving the customer a top notch customer service the experience over the quality of the food, which is almost secondary.    The food is always solid though.

Sorry for the digression.  They share a space with Santa Monica Summer House which is on the left.  Stella Barra to the right.  The space is somewhat dark and lit by edison light bulbs.  The walls are brick and their is popular music (not pop) playing at a relatively high volume.  It is an overall hip dynamic.

Lettuce always has an expansive kids menu which has the basics, but are generally made more healthy, and it also has some more choices headed towards the adult side.  Grilled cheese is made on whole grain bread for example.  Fish sticks have salmon for the fish and are made in house (kids meals are also displayed in a fun ceramic cafeteria tray).  The adult menu is all about sharing.  There are apps, salads and pizzas.  The server said that food comes out when ready.

We had the buratta to start which came out with four pieces of crusty toasted bread, and a bunch of smoky "roasted" grapes dressed with a bit of fig vinegar.  The grapes were a great complement to the silky and gooey buratta.

Pizzas have a choice of traditional crust, or thing "roman" style.  We shared two pies, one with spinach, kale, pecorino, roasted garlic, and parsley.  We ordered this one with a traditional crust, as recommended by our waitress.  All in all it was a solid pie.  The crust had a good bite and flavor to it and the toppings played out well.  The second pie was a shaved mushroom pie, which we ordered Roman thin style.  The pie was almost paper/cracker thin, covered to the edges with shaved mushrooms, guyere, melted onion, truffle and herbs.  All the flavors came together and it was very enjoyable.

We did not order desert, but went next door to Summer House, which has a coffee bar in front with a huge selection of daily made cookies.  We got a s'mores bar which was some sort of base, with a layer of ooey gooey chocolate and charred marshmallows on top.  We got a chocolate chip crunch cookie (chocolate chip with rice crispie treat bits sprinkled on-top.  The s'mores bar was so rich we couldn't eat the cookie and took it home.

As a side note, the dishes next door at Summer House looked really good and want to hit it up.

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Well, pras, you forced my hand. I now have to decide whether the Pike and Rose development is "North Bethesda" or "South Rockville." It isn't fair that they "dug into" the north side of Old Georgetown Road; regardless, I was impressed with my first visit to Stella Barra, and have initialized it in Italic in the Dining Guide.

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Well, pras, you forced my hand. I now have to decide whether the Pike and Rose development is "North Bethesda" or "South Rockville." It isn't fair that they "dug into" the north side of Old Georgetown Road; regardless, I was impressed with my first visit to Stella Barra, and have initialized it in Italic in the Dining Guide.

My vote is North North Georgetown.

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Let's not forget that PnR has arisen out of the ashes of what use to be called "MID Pike Plaza"...this is Rockville, plain and simple.  

On the other hand, downtown Rockville is as far away as downtown Bethesda. That said, when I grew up in White Oak, and used to drive up Randolph Road, when we hit Rockville Pike - we were in *Rockville*, no doubt about it.

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Had dinner here again on  Saturday, and was not disappointed.  Pizza was good as always, burrata was also nice, but the standout was oven roasted Japanese sweet potatoes, with a honey glaze and a sprinkling of togarashi.   The pieces were cut into spears, they had a nice crust, and a soft inside.  The honey and heat were in perfect balance.  Service was also really good.  At the end when our 6 year old wanted a cookie, the waitress offered to walk her to the case to let her pick one out.  It was a nice touch.

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