La Stalla Cucina Rustica owner Paolo Vetrati is frequently asked to name his restaurant’s signature dish. He has a quick answer for that.
“There isn’t a signature dish,” said Vetrati, who was born in Italy. “If I don’t think it’s good enough, it won’t go on the menu. When people ask me for recommendations, I ask, ‘What are you in the mood for?’”
La Stalla Cucina Rustica’s story begins in 1952 in the Italian fishing village of Mola di Bari in Puglia. It was there that Vetrati’s parents—Antonio Vetrati and Maria Innamorato—met and married. Soon thereafter, Antonio moved to the United States and was employed by a New Jersey pizzeria. When he opened his own pizzeria, his family—Maria, 10-year-old Paolo and 8-year-old Arianna—moved to the United States.
“It was tough growing up in the restaurant business,” he said. “There are a lot of sacrifices. There are a lot of late nights. I helped the family a lot. That was basically my childhood.”
Thirteen years ago, the family relocated to Chandler and opened La Stalla Cucina Rustica in historic downtown Chandler.
“I looked all around the Valley for a location,” Vetrati said. “I liked the urban feel of Chandler. I picked this downtown spot because it was up and coming at the time. It’s changed quite a bit.”
It has weathered the “tough times,” Vetrati said. His parents have since retired.
“It’s a family-run restaurant,” he said. “Even though my parents have retired, I still run the place. I’m here every day and make sure that things are done right.”
Dishes are in perfect proportions. Gnocchi Alla Sorrentina ($17) features small potato dumplings in a sweet tomato and basil sauce topped with fresh diced mozzarella. Lasagne ($17) is another popular dish, with pasta layered with meat ragu and besciamel sauce. Other dishes include Pollo al Limone ($18), chicken breast tenderized and pan seared in a lemon and caper sauce. Meanwhile, Spezzatino di Filetto Alla Birra ($23) is a blend of pan-seared beef tenderloin tips topped with a creamy button mushroom beer sauce. Pizzas, soups and salads are also on the menu.
“We’ve maintained a good relationship throughout the years,” he said. “We were in the top 11 restaurants in Arizona on Thrillist. We make everything in-house, except for a couple desserts. We buy the finest quality products—imported cheeses, imported meats—just to make it right. We stick to traditional and the old-country recipes. I even have a lot of native Italians come here because it’s so close to what they eat.”
La Stalla Cucina Rustica
68 W. Buffalo St.