Hilton Heads Little Italy for 26 Years
Twenty Years of the Family Biz?
Don’t Fuhgeddabout It
By Craig Hysell
A Taste of Hilton Head- Fall 2009
Stellini is Italian. Very Italian. So Italian that you might feel like you’re on a movie set or in a place where there might be one well-dressed, quiet guy in the back who wears a pinky ring, everyone whispers to and is known to take care of…well…”things.” Maybe that happens and maybe it doesn’t. Maybe you should mind your own business and enjoy your meal. But, whatever happens in Stellini, it is most likely as far from a highly imaginative writer’s manufactured Soprano-esque musings as possible and centered on the one thing that has kept the restaurant in business for the last twenty years: the experience.
Restaurants are not just about food. That’s like saying the Mona Lisa is about paint or Ferraris are about metal. Art is not about the medium solely by itself, but how the medium is used to create an experience. The medium is where the story begins, not ends. Stellini starts with good, quality food, makes it great and goes on from there.
Joe Pesce-like Joe Pesci, but not- bought the place twenty years ago without any prior restaurant experience because his daughter, Elise, and his son-in-law, Kyle Parlagreco, “worked there and needed a job.” Kyle, Stellini’s manager, and resident chops buster, maintains that Joe simply wanted free food. Pesce agrees that nothing has changed in twenty years. Jokes aside, the trio found the opportunity to improve on an existing establishment. Twenty years in the same place on an Island that, at times, seems to change with the tides has proven them correct.
In two decades, they’ve only had two chefs. Currently Ben Frazer and Larry Schneider, both culinary graduate chefs, oversee menu items like the Veal Saltimbocca, Zuppa di Pesce, and many other appetizers and entrees. “The menu says Italian,” relays Kyle with a significant degree of confidence, “but we do it any way we want to do it.
“We run the restaurant as a family owned restaurant,” Kyle continues, “not a corporation. Basically, everybody gets along, you do the right job, everybody’s happy, and we’re all friends. We’re a small, Jersey-style place with consistent, quality food. We use lighter sauces; they’re more delicate with lots of flavor to ‘em. And you’ll never figure out what’s in ‘em. People ask me how we make our marinara sauce all the time. I say, we start with tomatoes.”
Without exception, the brain trust that runs Stellini is proud of what they do; they should be, they’ve seen a lot of competition come and go for twenty years. And, without exception, they have a fantastic sense of humor that can only come from a family as close-knit as their own. Both virtues permeate everything they touch, which is exacly how a medium becomes not just art, but an experience.
What’s changed over at Stellini in twenty years? “My age, my sanity,” jokes Kyle. Pesce, still whimsical but a bit more existential, relates this feeling on the matter: “The fact that Kyle is still my son-in-law after all that time, I think, speaks very highly of us here.” Indeed. Kind of like a father investing in a restaurant because he believes in his daughter and her husband. When you’re in the family, you’re in for life. That’s consistency. That’s quality. That’s why customers keep coming back.
Come see for yourself! Stellini is open Monday-Saturday 5:00 PM-9:30 PM
Reservations are strongly recommended
Specials happen weekly
For information call: (846) 785-7006