Cafe Star fades, Trattoria Stella burns bright

Yup.  You read that right.  I just got off the phone with owner Tom Sumners, who, along with his wife, Marna, owns and operates Cafe Star, a restaurant I loved when Rebecca Weitzman was in the kitchen, and liked well enough when I had a long lunch on the patio last summer. And he confirmed that "probably in the next two weeks, three weeks," they'll be closing the restaurant.

Ouch, right? But here's the catch: Star will close, but the couple will re-open the space a few days later as a second outpost of their original restaurant, Trattoria Stella, a popular Highland neighborhood joint for the past decade.

When I asked the reason for Star's closure, Tom gave me an increasingly familiar line: "the economy."  Over and over again, it's the economy.  Plus the fact that while Stella has always been operated without any marketing, purely on the strength of its standing in the neighborhood, Star was a place that needed the reviews and press mentions to remain healthy. Tom told me about how a review would come out and pack Star, but then, slowly but surely, the trade would drain away until the next mention of the place in the press.

At Stella, though, things have always been steady. In fact, business there has actually picked up slightly. "I think we can serve the neighborhood better as Stella," Tom explained.  "People are looking for more value."

After they close Star on a still-unspecified date, they'll mess with the floorplan a little. As Stella ver. 2.0, the space at 3201 East Colfax will have a bar separate from the dining room and a menu that will preserve roughly 75 percent of what works so well at the original Stella.

One thing Tom and Marna won't change at the Colfax location: the current Cafe Star chef.  Michael Carlin will be in change of the new Stella kitchen when it debuts sometime in early April.

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