I'm not sure if you really can judge a restaurant by its bedfellows — in other words, by the other restaurants that share the same ownership.

But at least for me, it was reassuring to see, alongside the starry logo of Stella Grill, the more familiar names of respected local restaurants Desert Edge Brewery, Red Butte Cafe and Martine — all older siblings of Stella. This newest addition to the Pub Group Restaurants opened in mid-2007 in a great building along 900 East in Millcreek that feels like a comfortable cross between a home and an old-style garage.

And Stella is a worthy addition to this family, with a focused menu that brings a few fresh touches to classic dishes and service that moves diners smoothly through their meals, but never hurries.

Take the bruschetta, one of the appetizers we ordered on the recent weekend night that my husband and I had dinner at Stella. It's got the usual basil, tomato and pillowy mound of fresh mozzarella but adds eggplant caponata, a rich and earthy cross between a spread and a relish that brought depth to the dish.

We also had the crispy duck rolls, one of my favorite parts of our meal. The rolls, savory duck in Asian wrappers rolled into thin cigars, came with three sauces: a sweet, clear plum sauce; sharp mint chimichurri; and dark roasted pepper sauce. This dish's interest lay in the refreshing dissonance of the sauces: each made the duck rolls something completely different, and very enjoyable.

For dinner, my husband had the ribeye steak, a huge cut of meat leaning on a mound of mashed garlic yukon gold potatoes. The steak was a little more chewy than I'd have liked, but it had excellent flavor and was simply grilled and garnished with a little roasted pepper coulis.

I had pasta, the rosemary prawns and pancetta. I didn't detect much rosemary in the riot of flavors on this plate, which included not only the big, firmly sweet prawns and chunks of salty, smoky pancetta; but also squash, onions and garlic cream sauce, served over thin fettuccine. I think, based on the fact that the appetizers and entrees are pasted into the menu, that some items may change seasonally. If so, I appreciate that extra effort.

I'm not sure the desserts at Stella are made on site. However, and I've said this before, I don't mind that so much (especially at this reasonable price point) as long as they are good. We had the chocolate decadence, a slab of deep, dark chocolate goodness garnished with nuts; and the more subtle but equally tasty strawberry-kiwi poppy-seed cake, with thin-cut layers of sweet, moist cake topped with pastry cream full of fresh fruit.

Appetizers $5-$8, sandwiches $6.75-$8.50, soups and salads $3.95-$8.95, entrees $6.95-$18, desserts $5.

Stella Grill

Rating: ***

Where: 4291 S. 900 East

Hours: Monday-Thursday, 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m.; Closed Sundays

Payment: Major credit cards accepted

Phone: 288-0051

Wheelchair access: Easy

Also: Different housemade pasta salads daily; outdoor dining available in warmer weather.

Stacey Kratz is a freelance writer who reviews restaurants for the Deseret Morning News. E-mail: [email protected]