Restaurant review: La Stalla Cucina Rustica

La Stalla

Sometimes I crave an Italian restaurant fine-dining experience: the white tablecloths, immaculate service, a nice wine list and a menu of expertly prepared entrees.

Sometimes I want a simpler, less expensive Italian meal: Maybe just a bowl of perfectly cooked pasta — penne, ravioli or whatever — with a tasty red or white sauce.

Sometimes I want dirt-cheap Italian: a pizza for two and a couple of beers for $10 or less.

Fortunately, I’ve discovered I can get all three of these at La Stalla Cucina Rustica in downtown Chandler.

Located across the street from the Crowne Plaza San Marcos Golf Resort, La Stalla exudes an earnest charm.

La StallaSure, the space in filled with plastic orange trees strung with white holiday lights, a faux-stone fountain plugged into a electrical outlet and stacked-stone walls with inset shelves reminiscent of the ‘70s-era “Brady Bunch” living room.

But there’s really no kitsch factor here — just an honest attempt by owner and New Jersey transplant Paolo Vetrati to make his dining room, filled with rustic wood tables and chairs, look as inviting as possible.

Appetizers, such as fried calamari ($6 at lunch, $10 at dinner) and Caprese salad ($7/$10), aren’t particularly noteworthy, but if the Prosciutto di Parma and creamy burrata is available, it’s a must-have. Apply both meat and cheese liberally to a slice of ciabatta, courtesy of Simply Bread, for a memorable taste experience.

Sweet potato ravioli with a gorgonzola cream sauce ($9/$16) are both delicate and decadent at the same time. It’s my favorite pasta dish at La Stalla, although the asiago-stuffed gnocchi (bite-sized dumplings) in a sweet tomato and basil sauce are a close second.

Some pastas, such as a cavatelli with sweet Italian sausage and tender broccoli ($9/$15), are plated. Others, such as cheese-stuffed manicotti in a tomato sauce ($8, lunch only), are delivered in earthenware still radiating the heat of La Stalla’s brick oven.

La StallaNon-pasta entrées range from chicken Marsala ($10/$17) to prosciutto-wrapped veal ($21) to grilled pork chops ($23).

Twelve-inch pizzas also cater to all tastes. The simple Margherita, for example, is available two ways: one made with an even layer of store-bought mozzarella ($8/$10); the other a more “artisan” version with splotches of freshly pulled mozzarella ($9/$11).

For more variety, try the Quattro Stagioni, divided into quarters of artichoke, sausage, prosciutto and mushroom ($10/$12). All pizzas have a thin, cracker-like crust.

One of the best-kept secrets in town has to be La Stalla’s happy hour, which runs from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Not only are all appetizers just $5, but all pizzas are half-price.

That means you can get, say, a pepperoni pizza for $5.50. Add a couple $2 draft beers — eight handles include local craft ales like Four Peaks’ Kiltlifter and San Tan’s Sunspot, as well as Italian standards like Peroni and Moretti — and two people can enjoy a light supper for less than $10.

At that price, it truly is a happy hour (or two) at La Stalla.

La Stalla Cucina Rustica
Where: 68 W. Buffalo St., Chandler (south of Chandler Boulevard and west of Arizona Avenue)
Open: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. weekdays except Tuesday, noon to 10 p.m. weekends.
Prices: Appetizers $5-$12, salads $5-$7, pastas $15-$17, pizzas $10-$14, entrees $17-$23, desserts $6-$10
Info: (480) 855-9990 or

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6 Responses to Restaurant review: La Stalla Cucina Rustica

  1. RJONES says:

    I consider The Dish the pinnacle for in-depth reviews in the Valley. Your piece on the 70s-era “Brady Bunch” living room left me wanting more… MCC is proud of thier alumni.

  2. Collin Ghosh says:

    I tried their Rustico, Contadino and Pollo al Marsala and was very much
    impressed. Good to have them in Chandler downtown.

  3. Matt says:

    Went there for Happy Hour last weekend because of the review. The prices and food were great, but the atmosphere was horrible! Employees and the owner were reading newspapers in the bar. That doesn’t exactly scream “welcome” to your customers. There were only 2 other people in the place at 5:30. Perhaps they should do some advertising to get the business rolling in. After one appetizer and drink, we went to San Tan Brewery. The place was packed and did not feel like a morgue. That’s the kind of happy hour atmosphere that’s fun and appealing!
    Again, La Stalla’s happy hour food and pricing can’t be beat, there was just no ambiance in the bar. I could have stayed home and had a better time…….

  4. carole says:

    Heyy Matt,

    If San Tan brewery is your style, then you don’t belong at La Stalla. No one in the world would expect that a first class Italian restaurant would be rocking with loud, obnoxious twentysomethings, tattoos, blaring music and tv’s, beers galore and burgers. It’s not up to restaurants to make your happy hour happy. It’s all about the pricing. I eat at La Stalla quite often and I can tell the readers that the staff is quite attentive and the food is the best I have eaten anywhere in Arizona. Also 5:30 is kind of early for dinner. When I’m there after 6:00, the place gets quite full with a nice crowd of non-beer drinking, bar-hanging wannabe’s. Not everyone enjoys being sandwiched between loud drunks! La Stalla is my only choice for fine quality italian fare.

  5. Matt says:

    Hey Carole,
    You obviously missed my point! I was commenting on the Happy Hour atmosphere, IN THE BAR, not the restaurant. I’m sure if the staff was reading newspapers in the restaurant while you ate dinner, you would not be pleased.

  6. carole says:

    Hi Matt,

    Not sure what you want the staff to do? Entertain you while you drink???

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