When you first take a bite into a plain slice of cheese pizza at Stella’s Trattoria Pizzeria, a large stretch of cheese oozes into your mouth. For the past 35 or so years, residents all over Newburgh have been walking into Stella’s looking to experience the cheesy goodness of a slice of pizza, and its sophisticated yet simple Italian dishes.
Stella’s was closed for a short period of time this year, only to reopen three months ago at 283 Broadway under Mike Deleon. Despite a short closure and change of ownership, the community hallmark never really left.
“I was surprised myself [over the closure],” said Claudio Gomez, long time worker at Stella’s and Deleon’s friend. “I didn’t learn until the last minute.”
Former owner, Francis Vacante briefly closed the restaurant due to health issues for two months in the summer of 2018. He eventually leased the space out to Bronx Boys Pizza, only to discover illegal activity. After a court case, Bronx Boys Pizza was evicted from the space.
Finally, Deleon took over the space and brought back Stella's Pizza.
“I grew up in Newburgh,” said Deleon. “I used to work here for a long time, and wanted to bring it back to the community.”
For Deleon, seeing old customers return despite a brief closure, is one of the best parts of owning Stella’s. In addition, Deleon is honored to be a part of the city’s economic revival. Deleon is dedicated to keeping the menu of Stella’s affordable and tasty.
“The best part of Stella’s is that the community knows us,” said Gomez. “This place is a staple in this community, and they know us. So, we’ve met a lot of people through working here because you know we pride ourselves in the food that we serve. It’s mainly an experience. It’s not just a place where you grab food and go.”
Deleon is no stranger to the restaurant business. After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America, he has been working as an executive chef for over 19 years. Before Stella’s, Deleon has run other restaurants.
“I changed the menu [from the previous menu], it’s more of a trattoria menu,” said Deleon. “So, it’s more advanced and more progressive, as far as the food. It’s a lot different than a regular pizzeria menu.” Deleon’s goal is to serve sophisticated quality meals at reasonable pizzeria prices.
Deleon’s favorite dish on the menu is the rigatoni carbonara. “It’s grilled chicken, baby spinach, bacon, and a touch of egg, with alfredo sauce,” said Deleon. According to Deleon, most patrons prefer the crispy chicken sandwich. The chicken is fried and served with garlic aioli, tomatoes, and swiss. In addition, many people prefer their pastrami melt. The pastrami melt is served with garlic aioli and melted swiss cheese.
Gomez suggests the classic plain cheese slice for first time patrons. “If you’re a pizzeria, and the plain slice sucks,” said Gomez. “Then you can expect everything else to suck, because that’s the basic. Start with that, and then go try different toppings.”
Gomez believes that Stella’s serves the best pizza in the area. “I’ve always liked the dough and the sauce, no one else has this sauce.”
“We’re the original Stella’s,” finished Gomez. “We have the same vision that was here from the beginning. What we want to serve the community; we want to serve good food, and we want to give people an experience here. It might be considered a little hole in the wall, but sometimes little holes in the wall are the best place to go because you get treated as if you’re in your own home.”
Stella’s Trattoria Pizzeria is open every day. From Monday to Friday it is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. On Sunday it is open from 12 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Note: Although in 2018 there was a lawsuit filed against Stella's over wage theft, that lawsuit was dropped and not the cause of the closing.