My gf and I had been meaning to stop by Stellina after it came recommended by various friends and outlets, and being in the Watertown area, made it over on Friday night.
We were promptly seated although it was an initial turnoff that the hostess tried to seat us in quite possibly the worst table in the house - a two on an island between the end of the bar and the window seats and in front of the entrance to the shared restaurant, Pedro de Casa, iirc. The place was barely 1/2 full at that and I suggested one of the nice tables over against the wall in the main dining room where we wouldn't feel so naked. I believe they took one look at my festive yet tasteful shirt (white with tiny red dots and tiny blue stars) and figured I wouldn't know any better.
Service was good all evening - the waitress friendly and slightly engaging, but not intrusive at all. Wines by the glass were good - I had a Sangiovese that was pleasant.
We reverted to the fried calamari appetizer after being informed that the baccala app was sold out. The calamari was pretty good, actually - a decent portion with a tasty tomato sauce on the side - included rings and tentacles - the breading was fairly light, crunchy.
Entrees: Mine was a fettucine with lamb ragu - I had this recently at the Red House in Cambridge and swooned - the slight chill in the air had me thinking that the same warm flavors would be in this dish. I was wrong. The fettucine was fine although it was very al dente (to my taste, but not to many). But the lamb was rather disappointing...ground lamb so that, as my date remarked, "it looks and smells like hamburger helper." I huffed but generally had to agree - the "lamb" could have been pretty much any meat - none of the succulent fat that the Red House version had - I also don't believe it was cooked with any wine in the sauce - it was just generally tough and bland. I even put on grated parmesan cheese to enhance the flavor, which I almost never do after watching that scene from Big Night. Granted, the Red House version (a special) was about $10 more than what I paid at Stellina, but it was worth it.
The gf did not like her eggplant parm lasagna - there was little to no sauce in the layers - only a puddle on the plate, which left the fairly small serving as a cheesy, gooey rectangle bereft of flavor.
Stellina's is the kind of place that you really want to like - a local, slightly pretty place that serves great good - but I don't know if I would go back with all the other options available. Maybe worth a second chance.
Oh well - I'll make it up to her by hitting Vinny's at Night the next time. ;)
P.s. - Does anyone know anything about the old Italian restaurant around the corner from Stellina? Verona Restaurant - this place looks from the outside to be the early bird special destination, but it has lived on while other eateries in Watertown Square have come and gone. I'd be really curious to know if anyone has any feedback on that place -