One of thebest-kept dinning secrets in San Antonio is Dolores Del Rio, Stefania Baldeserelli’s River Walk hideaway. Its location almost under the St. Mary’s street bridge means locals have to think like tourists in their own city to find it. Luckily, the proprietor has opened Stefania’s Country Italian on San Pedro at Mulberry, in historic Monte Vista.
Like its downtown sibling, Stefania’s has only about 15 tables and space for musicians to entertain you while you twist pasta on your fork and enjoy a bottle of wine — although you’ll have to bring your own vino. Stefania’s doesn’t have a liquor license yet, and offers a minimal corkage fee of $10 — quite the bargain if you ask me, since you’ll avoid the usual restaurant markup.
When I dined at Stefania’s, I mentioned to our friendly and helpful server that I frequent Dolores Del Rio and that this was my first time at the new outpost. He smiled and told me, “If you like it over there, you’re going to like it here.” And he wasn’t kidding; the menu is an exact replica — my only big complaint of the evening.
For an appetizer, we had the mussels, which were swimming in a perfectly seasoned white-wine broth that tasted even better sopped up with the freshly grilled garlic bread that accompanied it. Since I’ve had so many of the dishes at Del Rio, I decided to order something unusual for me — Stefania’s gorgonzola pasta, figuring that with the proprietor’s name in the title, it must be a winner.
It was. In the blend of gorgonzola, parmesan, and cream tossed with pasta and fresh herbs, the gorgonzola offered just the right amount of tang. The sauce was splendidly creamy and it effortlessly attached itself to the pasta, making each bite burst with flavor.
Dinner companion ordered the capellini, angel-hair pasta with oil and garlic, fresh tomatoes, basil, and artichoke hearts. Although this dish was far lighter than the gorgonzola pasta, its fresh flavors melded beautifully. Other menu items include escargot, baby clams pasta, veal, steak, and seafood.
Our server recommended my favorite Del Rio dessert, the tiramisu. It arrived surrounded by an intriguing black-cherry sauce, which augmented the impeccably espresso-soaked ladyfingers. This dessert tasted like it was made by my Italian grandmother the night before.
Despite the remarkably rich and fresh flavors of the food, Stefania’s Country Italian seems to have opened a little prematurely. The black-and-white paper menus are sure to morph into a glossy colored version soon enough, and I imagine the bare walls will someday be covered in eclectic art, as is Stefania’s River Walk restaurant. In the meantime, live music adds something to the ambience. The space is clean and simple with an open kitchen centered in the back of the restaurant, where diners can watch chef Ivan Wheeler perform his magic. I’ll be back to check in; I’ve never been disappointed by Dolores Del Rio, and considering the likeness between the original and the new, I don’t expect to leave Stefania’s dissatisfied, either. •
It’s Dolores Del Rio redux at this Monte Vista outpost of the popular River Walk belly-dance hideaway.
Stefania’s gorgonzola pasta
Lunch: 11:15am-3:30pm Mon-Fri
Dinner: 4:15-10:30pm Mon-Sat
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