Stella Nonna restaurant opens in NW Berkeley

Stella Nonna Interior

Stella Nonna: Newly opened at 1407 San Pablo Ave. in Berkeley, serves “new American” dishes and classic comfort food. Photo: Stella Nonna

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.”

Stella Nonna Interior 2

The former Wilderness Exchange space now has polished concrete floors and an exposed wood-beam ceiling. Photo: Stella Nonna

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.

[See the dinner menu, dessert menu and bar menu.]

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.

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  • Mfox327

    FYI it’s “Bolognese”

  • Chris J

    Wow. Another restaurant. Glad to see the confidence in folks to do this. Maybe the economy is getting better. Hmm. Well, it must be…I just got a new job and I’m getting a 75% bump in wages so…maybe time to start eating out again.

  • Betty

    Welcome to the neighborhood. We’ve been watching the space evolve and are excited that you’re finally open. We’ll be by very soon!

  • emraguso

    Thanks! We’ll fix.

  • Ripple

    It’s between Camilia and Page Sts. If you want to use the major streets it’s Gilman and Cedar. Hopkins doesn’t intersect with San Pablo.

  • Mfox327

    There’s nothing wrong with using Hopkins as the major street southern boundary:

  • B2B

    Was very excited to see Stella Nona opening, but the menu isn’t very appealing to me, unfortunately. Sad about that. Hoping to see some good reviews that can sway me to give it a try.

  • Neighbor to Acme

    This map is just plain wrong (in many ways). Cedar crosses San Pablo, and Hopkins doesn’t split from San Pablo until further east.

  • Neighbor to Acme

    I meant Hopkins doesn’t split from CEDAR until further east.

  • Mfox327

    Satellite views don’t lie

  • The_Sharkey

    That satellite view doesn’t show Hopkins splitting from Cedar west of San Pablo. It splits from Cedar on the east side of San Pablo.

    It also doesn’t show a square island at the intersection of Cedar and San Pablo, which the Google map seems to think exists.

  • Andrew D

    I think the argument has to do with the street labeling on the google maps. Having lived in Berkeley for the majority of my 41 years, I definitely think of that intersection at San Pablo as Cedar St. not least of which because it is the street that continues through the intersection. I am aware that it is also where Hopkins and Cedar meet, and that Rose has also recently merged with Hopkins a few blocks east. There is nothing “wrong” with using Hopkins as the designation, but is seems more natural to use Cedar. Just style/preference from my point of view. Hopkins is a weird street that cuts through Berkeley at an angle, and whose traffic uses only parts of it at time, splitting off on Gilman and Sacramento and Montery. The street has always seemed to me to be a series of short cuts, not really an east west artery.

  • Mfox327

    The point is, the original article is correct, Hopkins intersects SP. Period.

  • The_Sharkey

    I don’t think it does. Hopkins terminates at San Pablo. It doesn’t go through it at all.

  • Mfox327

    My entire point is that the original article is correct in stating that Stella Nonna is between Gilman and Hopkins (paragraph 1). It just is, it really, really is.

  • Mbfarrel

    If you believe the city’s signage, it is Cedar that crosses San Pablo. if you prefer decades of common usage it’s Cedar that crosses San Pablo. If you believe Google ……

  • Bryan Garcia

    “Mary’s Bacon-Braised Greens — 5
    Vegan option available”

    Thanks for the option but there doesn’t seem to be a vegan entree option, so what’s the point?

  • Mbfarrel

    You are really, really wrong. Cedar and Hopkins existed long before this intersection, Hopkins at Cedar, was reconfigured to handle increased traffic. The addition of a traffic light dramatically increased traffic on Cedar at San Pablo. Mostly, however, Google is wrong. Imagine that.

  • The_Sharkey

    Sure, absolutely.

    I’m just agreeing with “Ripple” that Hopkins doesn’t intersect San Pablo, and that Cedar is a better landmark street along San Pablo because it does.

  • MARhoades

    You folks are all funny. I live in the neighborhood. Hopkins decidedly DOES NOT intersect with San Pablo. Cedar intersects with San Pablo. Hopkins branches off from Cedar at Kains Street. Sheesh.

  • stevegsmith

    Now that we have the location discussion out of the way, what did you think? Great eh?

  • Tony Fairfax

    Came here and tried the appetizers and wine/cocktails last week. I think they said it was one of their pre-opening nights. The meatball sliders were delicious and the Korean chix wings had just the right amount of heat.
    An eclectic choice of beers and some very good wine choices for a relatively short list. They even had wines from Mexico (didn’t recognize them so had to ask), but I wasn’t willing to risk buying a whole bottle to see if we liked it. They should offer a few more by the glass, but the ones we did try were great and priced fairly (an Italian white and red).
    I didn’t have any cocktails, but one of my friends liked her French 75.

  • Nathanator

    Aren’t some of pastas vegan if you don’t have cheese? Same with the salads. And the Tofu and the Mezze platter seem vegan. As a former vegan (worst year of my life) I often had to cobble and combine items on a menu, which seems no different at Stella Nona. I get the menu of American comfort food with Italian inspiration, but it’s the Mexican and Mideast stuff that has me scratching my head. But it does look tasty. I sure miss Wilderness Exchange — bargain prices compared to REI!

  • Twill Monkey

    I agree that the menu is unfocussed. I don’t think I would spend money/time there until, or if, it does.

  • elp

    Had a lovely dinner here on Thursday. The staff was gracious and attentive, the food was delicious, nicely served and in portions that were actually dinner sized (read big enough that we felt like we had actually had dinner and didn’t need a second dinner to fill us up). Lamb Bolognese Penne was a really nice combination with mint garnish, the resident vegetarian had Nonna Teresa’s Pappardelle and was very happy with it. The happiest though was my husband who had the pulled pork sandwich with slaw and a side of fries – he said the pork was tender, flavorful and plentiful. Best part was all of the above, plus a shared Ceasar salad – $64.00 (we didn’t have any alcohol).

    I like the variety on the menu – gives a little something for everyone. Try Stella Nona – It will be a pleasing experience.

  • Rebecca Yen

    We miss Wilderness Exchange too, but at least there’s Royal Robbins and North Face outlet nearby. I am so much happier to have a restaurant and cool bar close to home (walking distance) that stays open semi-late.
    I actually like the menu — it’s got something for everyone and not trying to be yet another Berkeley ultrahip place with miniscule portions and snobby attitude. We had the fried chicken and it fed two easily. You get your money’s worth with big portions. My only suggestion would be for a soup and salad combo and maybe a little less kitchen noise.
    Wine and beer choices were pretty extensive for a small place. Very international. My husband says don’t miss the dark lager (forget name), it was delicious and went perfectly with the fried chix. Everyone was very accommodating and the friendly host came by to answer questions about the French & Italian wines. He mentioned they will start brunches and lunches soon and they will have outdoor seating.

    Our dessert was heavenly, the almond tort with ice cream.

  • AnonOCD

    I pointed out the error, using “Report a problem” in the right-click menu in the map, and Google Maps has now fixed it.

  • serkes

    Figured I’d go to the source material – the plat map.

    I’d personally use Cedar as the intersection and Acme, Bartavelle & Kermit Lynch as the landmarks.

    Looking at the map, I’d say that Hopkins does end at San Pablo, but doesn’t intersect with it.

    How Berkeley can I be?