A new restaurant, serving new American classics with regional accents and self-described comfort food, opened on San Pablo Avenue in Berkeley on Wednesday. Stella Nonna Restaurant and Bar has taken over and transformed the old Wilderness Exchange building at 1407 San Pablo Ave., between Gilman and Hopkins (as tipped by Berkeleyside Nosh in March).
The 2,300-square-foot restaurant seats 50, has a full bar, as well as an outdoor patio. Stella Nonna’s owners are Tim Carlon and Sarah Nasgovitz, who have been running a successful catering firm of the same name in Berkeley since 1997.
“For years our catering clients have asked us, ‘So when are you going to open a restaurant,’” said Nasgovitz in a statement. “We looked for a location that we could build to our vision, and where we can be part of a vibrant, expanding neighborhood,” she said. “We finally found the right space and designed it to be both welcoming and familiar.”
The old Wilderness Exchange building has been gutted and remodeled into a modern space with polished concrete floors, hand-built reclaimed teak tables, and an exposed wood-beam ceiling. Giant windows and a pull-up glass garage door complete the picture.
The menu includes entrées such as lamb Bolognese penne, pork carnitas with mac-n-cheese, Minnesota fried chicken with greens and beans, and a rotating selection of pastas. The kids’ menu includes the “evil burger’ and Aidell’s chicken and apple sausages. Old-fashioned cakes and desserts, made in-house by pastry chef Mitchell Hughes, formerly of Spun Sugar, are a speciality. Think chocolate brownies, carrot cake, apricot gallete, and strawberry rhubarb crisp.
Carlon and Nasgovitz named the restaurant Stella Nonna (Italian for “star grandmother”) in honor of their grandmothers’ love of food and the family table. Before starting Stella Nonna Catering, both worked in restaurants in Europe, the Midwest, and California. Nasgovitz, a Wisconsin native, is a graduate of Mills College in Oakland and Le Cordon Bleu in London. Carlon attended hotel and culinary school in St. Paul, and worked as a line and sous chef in Germany, Minnesota and Wisconsin before moving to California in 1992.
Stella Nonna is currently open for dinner, and will add lunch and weekend brunch service in the near future.
Visit the Stella Nonna website for more information, or call 510-524-3400.