Byron-based crew showcases Mediterranean flavours at new Bulimba eatery, Stella

A brand-new restaurant is turning heads on Oxford Street. Stella, the fresh concept from the crew behind Byron Bay’s Trattoria Basiloco, is pumping out eye-popping serves of lobster pasta, steaming slabs of slow-cooked duck-ragu lasagna and freshly woodfired pizzas, while the bar is popping corks on bottles of nebbiolo, barolo and langhe bianco.

Feb 23, 2024, updated Feb 23, 2024

For Niccolo Pulcher, hospitality is a family affair.

The northern-Italian expat cut his teeth in Sydney’s restaurant scene before moving north to Byron Bay, where he started his own restaurant group alongside his brother, Jacopo. Together, they run venues such as Trattoria Basiloco in Byron Bay, Lello’s Pasta Bar in Brunswick Heads and, as of the start of February, Stella in Bulimba.

Thus far, every venue the duo has added to their portfolio has been underpinned by a homespun approach to cooking – something that Nico attributes to his upbringing, which revolved around the kitchen. “That’s where we learned how to cook,” says Nico. “My family is a big family. I have three brothers and there were always friends over. Both my mum and my dad were always cooking – they have a great passion for food. We’ve always been around the kitchen.”

It tracks, then, that family is a key source of inspiration for Nico and Jacopo. Lello’s is named after their brother, while Stella has been named in ode of their mother, whose nickname was Stellina, meaning little star. The restaurant can be found towards the river end of Oxford Street, in the space previously home to Mina Italian (next door to Darvella Patisserie).

Looking to bolster their portfolio with a concept less beholden to seasonal fluctuations like Byron Bay, the brothers took on the space, bringing their old-school approach to cooking along for the ride. “We had this opportunity to get the venue, so we decided to move to the city and bring our tradition and showcase what we do best,” says Niccolo. “We’re trying to bring authentic food to the table – the old ways, traditional.”

The team first undertook a significant makeover process, exchanging the pastel terrazzo bar front for clean black-and-white tiles, while pre-existing wainscoting has been removed before giving the walls a rendered-concrete-like texture. The team has also closed off the kitchen from view (though glimpses of action can still be seen through arched pass windows) and reconfigured the layout of the alfresco dining area (and installing a permanent shade). What results is a restaurant that is easy on the eye. Refined, but approachable – just like the food.

Nico describes Stella’s seasonally shifting menu as broadly Mediterranean, with a distinct lean towards Italian cuisine. Everything is made in house from local products, from the pasta and bread to the sauces. The fun starts with antipasti plates like kingfish crudo, lamb arrosticini and grilled Queensland king prawns, followed by a clutch of salads and sides. Stella’s pasta offering is tight but boasts substantial serves – pappardelle boscaiola with mushroom, peppered pancetta, black truffle and cream, slow-cooked duck-ragu lasagna and the show-stopping lobster pasta are stand-outs.

On the pizza front, a woodfired oven turns out a number of red- and white-base options, including familiar favourites like the margherita, capricciosa, gamberi and the salsiccia e patate. Stella’s main event includes black Angus rib-eye fillets and grilled swordfish with confit tomato cream and green beans, while dessert is hits a sensational final note with tiramisu, creme brulee and Sicilian cannolis.

Currently, Stella’s beverage program features a range of classic cocktails, while the wine list encompasses an interesting mix of domestic and international drops. “Wine wise we’re going 80-percent Italian,” says Nico. “Then we have some Australian wines and couple of French here and there, but we’re mostly trying to stay Italian.” Discerning oenophiles will spy a bold 2018 barolo Bussia and a 2020 nebbiolo from Poderi Fogliati, as well as an Amarone della Valpolicella from Riondo in Veneto.

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