That mysterious and massive “Waffle Shop” lettering long hovering above 5th and K Streets NW will finally light up in red next month, luring diners to a familiar Italian menu full of cacio e pepe pizzas, homemade pastas, and amaro cocktails.
Union Market district’s critically acclaimed Stellina Pizzeria expands its “neo-Neapolitan” presence in D.C. with a nostalgic new outpost in Mt. Vernon Triangle on Tuesday, May 3 (508 K Street NW). Chef Matteo Venini and restaurateur Antonio Matarazzo import fan favorites from their 3-year-old Northeast flagship, including cacio e pepe available as a pasta sauce and a flavor for pizza, panini topped with fried octopus and burrata or porchetta, paper cups full of fried artichokes or mixed seafood, and other Italian street foods. Stellina recently expanded across state lines to Shirlington, and an additional Virginia locale will pop this winter in Tysons.
Stellina’s newest 2,900-square-foot digs, twice the size as the D.C. original, is a tale of two vibes past each entrance along K Street NW. The left side feels more on brand, where a mural of Italian film stars sipping espresso leads the way to a rectangular, 42-seat dining room wrapped in slick, red-and-white tiles. Towards the back, a mod mural of stylish Italian actress Sophia Loren overlooks the walk-up ordering counter and nucleus of the operation: a huge Marra Forni oven. Adorned with Stellina’s now-recognizable logo of five red dots, the domed Ferrari of the pizza world is charged with firing up its slow-fermented dough to build its core cast of charred pies and panini.
Patrons entering the door on the right will encounter a reimagined version of the iconic greasy spoon that once stood blocks away on 10th Street NW. The portal to the past reveals a soaring setup with 32 seats snaking around a laminated, M-shaped bar counter. Low-top tables positioned along the mirrored wall offer seating for 10 more.
To further pay homage to the neighborhood’s throwback fixture, the diner side will introduce a waffle panini stuffed with mortadella, spicy red onion marmalade, pistachio cream, stracchino cheese, and roasted truffled potato. 2scale Design put together the look of the 82-seat space that connects in the back.
When Stellina first leased the gravel-lined shell space back in 2019, the Italian-born owners agreed to duplicate the original diner’s blueprint — down to building a serpentine bar and ordering replicas of its bolted-down chrome stools — in order to meet D.C.’s strict historical standards.
“This side was 70 percent of the project,” he says. Those pricey bar stools are scheduled to arrive soon.
Look for a list of Italian wines, beers and spirits, draft cocktails, as well as coffee and espresso. Building on its pandemic-born takeout business, a fridge will always be stocked with its homemade pastas, sauces, pizzas, and dough. Contactless ordering can be placed on tablets and QR code-enabled tables, with hours kicking off at 11 a.m. six days a week (closed Mondays).
Despite inflation causing the cost of restaurant essentials to spike — everything from flour to tomatoes to wine to glasses — Matarazzo says he plans to keep prices low to maintain Stellina’s identity.
“We still want to be an ‘upscale’ fast casual,” he says. “I want people to come here to get a good experience, the best pizza, and a nice negroni for $30 and you’re out.”
A 32-seat outdoor patio flanked with bright red umbrellas will join the mix later this spring.