Stella 34 Trattoria: A Neapolitan Trattoria With Panache

March 31, 2014 Updated: March 29, 2014

If it wasn’t for the looming sight of the Empire State building through the expansive glass windows, you’d think the Mediterranean Sea was just outside. 

The airy interior, which was once a storage room, is now bright and clean. The design is elegant and modern, with high ceilings, white walls, with a touch of light blue, and marble dining counters that allow you to watch the chefs at work and enjoy the flickering flames emanating from the three wood-burning ovens. 

This is Stella 34 Trattoria at Macy’s, in Herald Square, where one can quietly enjoy a fabulous authentic Neapolitan meal at reasonable prices. 

At the kitchen’s helm is executive chef Jarett Appell, graduate of ALMA—La Scuola di Cucina Italia in Colorno, Italy. He spent many years in Italy honing his culinary skills in various venues, including Hostaria dell’Orso, the oldest restaurant in Rome, and the Pizzeria la Notizia, the first, and at the time, only pizzeria listed in the Michelin guide. Appell also opened Donatella in New York City as executive chef.

Everything is made in-house with finesse and panache and with utmost attention to the minutest details. The pizza is made with flour from Naples and the water used matches the mineral balance of Naples springs.

You will see many satisfying and charming dishes on the menu. Good examples from the Piccoli Piatti (small plates) section would be the decadent sformato, a sort of soufflé with pioppini mushroom mousse with thyme, vincotto, and Parmigiano ($8). It was silky, smooth, and hearty. It was out of this world. No wonder it is popular.

I can still feel and taste the pâté di legato ($8), the velvety and light duck liver mousse accompanied with orange marmalade. What a wonderful combination. It was superb.

Among other salumi, the salsiccia di guancia ($9) made of pork jowl, and the finocchiona ($8), the Tuscan fennel salami, were among the best I have tasted yielding rich, bold, and exciting flavors with nice textures. 

Among the pasta dishes, the cresta di gallo ($19) attracted my attention. It has vibrant colors of green and red, from the elbow-shaped green pasta infused with escarole with San Marzano tomato sauce. A touch of chili gave a nice finish and a lingering heat at the end of the bite. 

One interesting pizza that caught my attention was the cavolfiori ($17) with cauliflower, black pepper, and Meyer lemon. It was so elegant and mild. I love cauliflower. It is delicate and sweet, and this was served with a cauliflower paste instead of tomatoes topped with cauliflower florets. 

The porchetta ($30), from whole roasted suckling pig, was juicy and tender, surrounded with crackling skin. It sat on apple compote with candied almonds, accompanied by a green salad with Gorgonzola dolce and bacon-sherry vinaigrette. It was beautiful, sophisticated, and well-balanced. This is to be expected since the menu was developed by two dedicated and talented chefs, Appell and Jonathan Benno of Lincoln.

The excellent desserts are prepared by Stefanie Morgado from Bouchon Bakery (each at $8), from the very creative and to-die-for torta al’olio, a warm olive oil pound cake with apricot compote, thyme syrup, and olive oil gelato, to the delizia al limone, with lemon Genovese, cornmeal pastafrolla, toasted meringue, and lemon curd gelato.

Stella 34 Trattoria
151 W. 34th St., located on the 6th floor of Macy’s.
Daily, 11:30 a.m.–4 p.m.
Monday–Saturday, 4 p.m.–9:30 p.m.
Sunday, 4 p.m.–9 p.m.