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Commendable lunches bode well for Café Stellina's dinner plans             By KRISTEN MILLARES BOLT
P-I REPORTERCapitol Hill residents should cross their fingers for Café Stellina's dinner ambitions. At the end of August, owners Teri Esensten and Mike Cicon moved from their four-year-old Central District location into the Piston & Ring Building at 12th Avenue and East Pike Street. In the five months since, they have transformed the wood, metal and concrete garage space next to Osteria la Spiga into a haven for lunchtime dining done right. Next Wednesday they hope to add dinner to their repertoire, changing their hours from breakfast and lunch to lunch and dinner only, reopening for breakfast once the construction around them clears up.In the process, they will pepper their vegetarian-leaning menu with lamb and fish dinner entrees and some pricier wine choices selected by Esensten, a former sommelier at The Ruins.  KAREN DUCEY / P-I Teri Esensten, left, and Mike Cicon own and run Cafe Stellina on Capitol Hill. Next Wednesday they hope to add dinner to their repertoire.While several of their lunchtime entrees flirt with prices at $12 and above, such as angel hair pasta baked in parchment and their hominy, tomato and green chile stew, there are a dozen other offerings under $10 that should draw deal-seeking workers from all over town.Their portions, to be frank, are an admonishment to all those fancy and pseudo chichi places around Seattle that reach for refinement with minuscule servings. A lunchtime meal at Café Stellina is refreshingly filling, as long as you don't make the mistake of ordering multiple courses or eating the second serving of Macrina Bakery potato bread offered with hummus. On a recent weekday, the service was not cued for workers needing a 45-minute turnaround time, but the lag lent the grace of anticipation to each plate's arrival. A poppy seed vinaigrette married the spinach and grapefruit in a sublime union in one $8 salad, while peanuts, green onions and a spray of salt and pepper zested up a hearty $6 bowl of yam and peanut soup.A length of salmon cured by pastry chef Robin Reiels (brought in by owner Cicon from Flying Fish in Belltown) was draped atop a dense, moist and firm hunk of polenta with a dollop of creme fraiche and green onion garnish for $9. Baked polenta with house-cured salmon has a creme fraiche and green onion garnish. A lunchtime meal here is refreshingly filling. Esensten is proud to say that Reiels is responsible for the desserts and savory puff pastry tarts and quiches, but she would not reveal who's behind the molasses brown bread enveloping the tenderly seared eggplant chunks, spread with sesame aioli in a hefty $9 vegetarian sandwich. I preferred that to an aggressive $10 salami, tomato, pesto and Mozzarella cheese sandwich, whose toasted focaccia (source undisclosed) overwhelmed the layers of dripping goodness inside. Its side of mixed greens with rosemary vinaigrette helped dispel the heaviness of the sliced salami, though.A roll-up glass garage door sheds light on each of the 42 seats, and will open for breezy summer lunches and dinners. By then, the construction of Trace Lofts across the street will be finished, though the neighboring apartment building is not scheduled to be complete until fall.Ignore the hammering, and settle in.                     
                     
 
 
Cafe Stellina is delightful”
 
 A S., Saturday, August 26, 2006
This review is for: Cafe Stellina
 
We were driving in Capitol Hill the other day and noticed the former Cornish theater props workshop building on 12th Avenue East had been transformed into a snazzy looking cafe. So we went there for brunch this weekend, with our 15-month old. It's the same Cafe Stellina's but they have moved from Union to 12th and Pike. Just opened three days ago. They don't have highchairs or booster seats, but we eat out often enough so keep one of those foldable ones in our car. Note this is not your usual place to take kids, and most parents wouldn't want the hassle of taking kids here, but I like to expose my son to fine dining so that he appreciates food with actual flavor and learns to eat and behave at nice places. It was great. The space is lovely, open and light and modern with clean lines and a touch of the popular pseudo industrial warehouse look and it all works. The food was great. We had bagels with salmon and cream cheese (and amazing slices of heirloom tomato on the side), a breakfast "pizza" and yoghurt with fruit (ripe figs, a rare treat, were included). All were top quality fare, clearly purchased with love, and very reasonable prices. The coffee was great, and the fresh squeezed juice was awesome. The pastries looked delicious, so they are on the list to try next time.
 
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