The thing that I take most for granted living in Miami, is the abundance of incredible restaurants. This is not to say that I don’t eat at them enough—because I do eat out a lot—but I just have become so accustomed to there always being a delicious food option of any variety at every price point. You want French food? There is a hole in the wall French bakery that can satisfy you with the best croissants and brie sandwiches for less than $5 (Le Royal). There is also a little brasserie in the grove that serves the best ceasar salads for $12 (Le Bouchon du Grove). Or you can splurge and enjoy a truely memorable foie gras and braised short rib burger for $30 (Db Bistro Moderne). And Cuban food? Well you can get that delicious anywhere, for either dirt cheap, cheap, or accurately priced. The only type of food that I believe Miami lacks in variety is Chinese. It’s weird, Miami only does upscale Chinese. There is no greasy, grungy, make you feel sick to your stomach (but all at the same time delicious) kind of Chinese food. Then again, this could be a great step in the evolution of American eating habits, so I won’t really complain—although I do crave my oil-drenched Lo Mien from time to time!
But enough of my tangent and back to the point! It wasn’t until this spring break that I realized just how fortunate I am as a foodie to be living in Miami. I’m back in Philadelphia for break and when my parents asked me to pick a place for dinner tonight, I suddenly realized that all the options were Italian. I love a good pasta dish and marsala sauce, but I also like to switch things up a little, and I just had Italian with Jen last night. But faced with choice of Italian or Italian, I chose my second favorite Italian restaurant (after Domani Star, where I ate last night) and decided on La Stalla located in Newtown.
La Stalla is more conducive than Domani Star for large parties, so we usually eat all of our special occasion meals here. Both the food and service are predictable and consistently good, and the atmosphere is cozy and elegant. Wednesday nights are a fun night for people watching, since all the divorcees have their big “off night” from the kids and tend to post up at the bar, decked out in their most cougar-ish attire. It’s dinner and a show.
To start, my family always orders the Tuscan Table which is an antipasti spread complete with Sharp Aged Parmesan Cheese, Grilled Asparagus, Roasted Portobello Mushrooms, Roasted Red Peppers, Marinated Hot Peppers, Kalamata Olives, Marinated Artichoke Hearts, and Beans in Vinaigrette. This plate is also accompanied by warm Tuscan Bread and herbed dipping oil. It is usually the highlight of the meal for me because I can pick at all the different flavors while I sip my first cocktail and read over the dinner specials for the evening. My mom and I have even come just for drinks and the Tuscan Table before, because it is that good! My family’s other favorite appetizer is the Mussels in Spicy Red Sauce, which are killer…enough said.
Tonight I ordered one of my favorite pasta dishes here—the Penne Puttanesca, which is Penne Pasta sautéed with Kalamata Olives, Capers, Onion, Parsley, and Cherry Tomatoes in a White Wine Pomodoro Sauce. I typically like to switch out the penne pasta for a linguine, because I like twirling my pasta (silly, I know), but tonight I had the penne and it was just as delicious. The sauce is a light red sauce and the capers and olives add just the right saltiness to the dish. Bets of all, the food at La Stalla is always burn-your-mouth hot! Even the dishes are blistering hot, so there is no pressure to eat in a hurry before your food gets cold.
My dad also ordered a pasta dish for his entrée and got the Farfalle e Gamberi, which is Bowtie Pasta sautéed with Shrimp, Grape Tomatoes, and Garlic in a Blush Pomodoro Sauce. I would never order a seafood pasta as my own entrée, but I had a few bites of his and loved it. The sauce was simple and delicious and they certainly weren’t scant with the shrimp either! My dad and I also split a side order of Broccoli Rabe with Sautéed Garlic, which was phenomenal. They added a ton of garlic which took away from the bitterness of the legume, and it wasn’t weighed down with oil so it felt nice and light.
My mom dared to be different and ordered the Pork Chop Special, which was served with Roasted Potatoes and Broccoli Rabe. She was disappointed because the meat was well over-cooked and after a few bites decided to send it back and order a pasta dish as well. She ordered the Farfalle Mascarpone, which is Farfalle pasta sautéed with Mushrooms, Asparagus, and Grape Tomatoes tossed in a Creamy Mascarpone Cheese Sauce. The dish was rich, as expected, but the flavors were spot on and the pasta was perfectly cooked. It was an upscale macaroni and cheese, and it certainly delivered the same comfort. I was also impressed by how quickly they managed to get her new dish to the table. She waited no more than 8 minutes, and they gladly took the Pork Chop off the bill.
Overall, La Stalla is a great place for a romantic date or a large group celebration, a cozy indoor meal or a relaxing meal out on the garden patio, and the outdoor bar scene is great during the summer with bocce ball courts not far off. I would recommend the pastas, and note that you need to specify that you only want a half order if you choose not to do the meal family style. My family is not good at sharing food and so we never do family style!