When Gina Rollo tells people she’s opening a pizzeria in Sellwood-Moreland, they get concerned. “People say, ‘Why are you opening a pizza place? There are so many pizza places in Sellwood,’” she says, sitting at a table in her future restaurant. “But in New York, there’s a pizza place on every corner. You can never have too much pizza.”
Then again, what Rollo will be serving at her incoming restaurant, Pizzeria Stellina, won’t exactly be ubiquitous in that neighborhood. Excluding the New York slices at A Cena offshoot Sunny’s and the personal pies at the Muddy Rudder, Sellwood’s pizza scene is primarily dominated by chains: Bellagios, Pizzicato, Papa Murphy’s. Those pizzas tend to be in the U.S. fast food style — soft, maybe a little thick, with quick ferment and a pale crust. Rollo, on the other hand, will slow-ferment a dough made with Walla Walla-grown hard red spring wheat flour (with 70 percent hydration, for you pizza nerds out there) over two-to-three days, before it hits a hot deck oven. What that means: The pizzas at Pizzeria Stellina will be lightly tangy, char-speckled, Neapolitan-looking pies, with a balance of airy crumb and crispy structure. “I’m not trying to be the pizza queen,” she says. “I’m just humbly trying to serve this neighborhood.”
Rollo has a long, storied history with pizza, and the food industry at large. Her family is Italian American, and she was born in Queens. She took her first restaurant job at 15 “to get out of school,” and ended up working through most food service jobs, from bussing tables to bartending to serving. After moving to Portland after stints in Florida, California, and New York, she worked her way through a few Portland Italian restaurants — A Cena, Caffe Mingo — before the former PieVino space fell in her lap. “I’ve always loved pizza; it warms my soul,” she says.
Still, she wanted to bring in some pizza reinforcements. Anthony Hope, who helped open Sunny’s down the street, will join Rollo at Pizzeria Stellina, where they’ll use farmers market produce to develop a rotating selection of pizzas. A few heavyweights will remain on the menu at all times, including margherita, bianca, and sausage. The one pizza that won’t be explicitly on the menu? Pepperoni. “We’ll have pepperoni you can add to a pizza; I know kids love it,” she says. “I just wanted to try something different.”
The rest of the food menu will include dishes like roasted cauliflower in hazelnut romesco and a few salads, as well as soft-serve made with Washington’s Edaleen Dairy base. “It’s so good,” she says. “It has 7 percent milk fat, which gives it more texture.” Pizzeria Stellina will serve chocolate, vanilla, and swirl for dessert, but also out of a walk-up window for those who just want a cone to-go.
When it comes to beverage, Rollo may not have a full liquor license when she starts slinging takeout pies in the next few weeks. But once she can, she plans to offer a list of primarily Italian wines, with some Pacific Northwestern reputation; the beer list will include Pacific Northwestern brewers almost exclusively. She also plans to serve things like frozen negronis and simple cocktails. This is meant to be a neighborhood joint, after all.
Pizzeria Stellina will open for takeout in early November at 8000 SE 13th Avenue; indoor and outdoor seating will follow before the year ends.
• Pizzeria Stellina [Official]