Pizza Brunch at Stella Barra

April 7, 2014

One of Lincoln Park's hottest restaurants is actually three spaces in one. Stella Barra, Summer House, and the makeshift coffee shop in between, are serving up a variety of Californian cuisines. I had already been to Summer House twice, once for dinner and another time when they launched brunch but this time I was headed to try Stella Barra for the first time. I specifically stopped by to check out their brunch menu which they recently launched. Stella Barra is a pizzeria so you may be surprised they have a brunch menu in the first place.

Main Dining Room
I stopped by with my friend Kelsey on a Saturday afternoon to find the building packed with brunchers. Stella Barra was not as crowded as its sister restaurant, but that quickly changed. The ambiance inside Stella Barra is quite the opposite of Summer House. Instead of a white and airy feel of a beach house, Stella Barra had a dark dining room, complete with leather touches, wood, and a more urban and casual feel. The Lettuce Entertain You restaurant serves up 400-500 pizzas each day from its kitchen, which is wide open for your viewing pleasure. Chef Jeff Mahin has perfected the handcrafted dough which uses California-milled flour, filtered water, sea salt, and fresh yeast. He's not messing around!

Open Kitchen
To kick things off, we each ordered drinks off the brunch menu, including the best drink name ever: Coffee Drank and a glass of bubbly prosecco. The Coffee Drank included Dark Matter cold brew coffee, Chairman's Reserve spiced rum, Evan Williams Bourbon, and cream.

Coffee Drank & Prosecco
Stella Barra not only offers artisan pizza, they also feature small plates, handmade pastas, and salads. We started with a serving of prosciutto to snack on while our pizzas cooked. Because each is made to order, we were told it may take a little bit to cook. The prosciutto was tasty, but isn't it always? I was a little disappointed by the lack of picked vegetables that came with it. It definitely could have used a bit of variety.

Since neither one of us had been to Stella Barra before, we decided to order off the brunch menu and the regular menu. Both menus are available on the weekend so there's no shortage of options for everyone in your party. We decided on two pizzas, one from the brunch menu, and another from the regular menu.

The regular pizza was topped with guanciale (pork cheek), smoked caciocavllo cheese, calabrian chiles, and arugula. The guanciale tasted just like bacon and the arugula helped cut away at the spice from the chiles. The red sauce was not overpowering and really helped the ingredients shine. I expected the crust to be crispy on the outside and soft in the middle, and it did not disappoint. The size of the pizzas is perfect for sharing and is cut into eight fairly large pieces.

Guanciale & Roasted Onions Pizza
The brunch pizza we ordered was called the Venice Beach and was topped with egg whites, shaved mushrooms, caramelized onions, gruyere cheese, parsley, smoked bacon, and truffle. As soon as I saw the word truffle on the menu, I knew I wanted try this pizza. All of the brunch pizzas are made with scrambled eggs instead of red sauce, with the option to add only egg whites. This pizza ended up being my favorite because of the amount of flavor. The egg whites made for a light and fluffy texture and the bacon and truffle were a perfect pairing.

Venice Beach Breakfast Pizza
Venice Beach Breakfast Pizza
Though we were stuffed silly with bacon and carbs, we were treated to some of the amazing baked goods from the coffee shop between Stella Barra and Summer House. They always seem to be sold out of the Rice Krispie chocolate chip cookie so I knew I had to try that one when I was told it was available. Kelsey ordered the bacon chocolate chip cookie, but agreed it was no match for the Rice Krispie chocolate chip variety. Lastly, we tried the morning bun, which I had previously tried during brunch at Stella Barra. While it wasn't my favorite, I did enjoy the sweetness and texture.

Morning Bun, Rice Krispie Chocolate Chip Cookie, & Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookie
Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookie
Chocolate Chip Rice Krispie Cookie
Kelsey and I left very full and very satisfied. It's great watching the chefs prepare pizzas in the open kitchen, and the variety of options makes it easy to find a perfect pie. I also love that Stella Barra is so different from Summer House, in terms of aesthetics and menu items, but you can still enjoy the same decadent baked goods in both spaces. I'd recommend a meal at Stella Barra if you're ever in the mood for some out-of-the-ordinary pizza with a dark and urban vibe. Just be sure to save room for dessert!

Note: my meal at Stella Barra was complimentary, however, the opinions expressed herein are my own.

Stella Barra
1954 N. Halsted Street
Chicago, IL 60614
Stella Barra Pizzeria on Urbanspoon


  1. I got the chance to go hear and meet with the chefs and make our own pizzas. I found they took great care in their product. Everyone loves the cookies!

  2. They absolutely do! I was so bummed to miss out on that event, but I'm glad I got to taste test!


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