Glen Ellen Star, Glen Ellen

Thursday, June 7th, 2012

On balmy spring nights it’s not surprising to find more people waiting outside the tiny Glen Ellen Star than seated inside. With just eight dining tables and a handful of seats around the open galley kitchen, every inch is prime real estate. At the glowing heart of the restaurant: Chef Ari Weiswasser’s 650-degree custom-built wood oven that perfumes the entire block with its smoke. Combining classic French techniques, razor-focused attention to detail, and exotic Mediterranean and Middle Eastern spices in every dish, Glen Ellen Star hasn’t wasted any time getting up to speed.

On the menu: Cast iron quick bread with local feta and zaatar ($6); spring pea soup with ricotta gnudi (a sort of large gnocchi), mint, and mascarpone ($10) that’s the sweet essence of spring in a bowl. Tapping (dad-in-law) Mike Benziger’s biodynamic farm for much of the produce, the wood oven vegetables section is a revolving lineup of whatever is in season — from fava beans with brown sugar bacon marmalade and golden beets with harissa crumble to fennel crusted fennel with chili and Meyer lemon oil ($8). A special of grilled zucchini with spicy yogurt and crisp pita was outstanding. Pizzas steal the show, with a simple Margherita ($12) or White Pizza with guanciale and arugula ($16) easily feeding two. If you’re up for something more substantial, Brick Chicken ($21) goes beyond the usual pallid poultry with tender meat and a crackling crisped skin seasoned with urfa, a Turkish pepper. Roasted lamb meatballs, couscous with dried fruit and a sweet-savory soffrito of tomatoes, onions and peppers ($18) turns this Italian standard into something extraordinary.

Everything’s available for takeout, including dessert, half-pints of house-churned ice cream in flavors like malted milk, maple vanilla bourbon, salted peanut butter, espresso and strawberry sorbet ($6). The wine list is well-curated to reflect the food and ambiance and include locals (Benziger, Imagery, Gundlach Bundschu), nearby (Radio Couteau, County Line, Copain) and a handful of Italian, French and Germans.

Don’t expect much too formality, however, as the blue-aproned Weiswasser and his staff turn out expertly charred pizzas, roasted lamb meatballs and padrone peppers from the oven. Nearly every table is within view of the buzzing pick-up station and its a challenge for staff to maneuver through tight quarters — especially with piping hot dishes from the oven. Expect a few errant nudges from neighbors and staff as part of the charm…and this star to continue to rise.

13648 Arnold Drive, Glen Ellen. Reservations strongly recommended, 343-1384. Bar available first-come, first-serve. Open for dinner Sunday-Thursday, 5:30 to 9pm, Friday and Saturday until 9:30pm.

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Author: biteclub

Food Dining and Restaurants in Sonoma County and beyond, is Wine Country dining with Drive-Thru Sensibility.

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  1. We ate there over a week ago during our first heat wave. The restaurant is cramped & loud so this is not a place to go for quite, romantic evening, or any other evening, for that matter, you can pretty much forget about any sort of communicating since everyone was straining to hear one another. It was so uncomfortably hot that I began to lose my appetite & the sweat dripping from all 4 of us was embarrassing. The service was so-so and we were never sure who was our server since up to 5 different servers/host/mgrs. were coming & going from our table. It became frustrating when each one of the servers would refill our wine, water & “how is our meal”. It was over kill and annoying to keep telling each one we do not want water, no more wine and our meal is fine. NO COMPLIMENTARY BREAD, had to pay $8.00 for flat bread & it was only enough for one person, not 4. We were given wrong salad, wrong entre, never given our to go box, so we almost forgot it We all agreed that this may be one of our worst dinig experience. All we wanted to do is get out of that hell hole & get some air. WHERE WAS THE AIR CONDITIONER!!

  2. I ate there last week and everything was superb. The fresh spring pea soup, the fava beans the fennel crusted fennel – oh man! Great job !

  3. Oh wow, everything sounds so good, including the ice cream, must put this on my list of places to try next!

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