Terry Ferrara, owner of Stella’s Barn, with daughter Lauren Ferrara Carpenter and granddaughter Lyla Carpenter.

Terry Ferrara, owner of Stella’s Barn, with daughter Lauren Ferrara Carpenter and granddaughter Lyla Carpenter.

After 16 years of serving up some of the best food the area has to offer, Stella’s Barn in Newfield is closing its doors in favor of turning the restaurant into a wedding venue and events space.

The event space will be renovated by December, and owner Terry Ferrara said she has discussed the possibility of hosting fall 2020 weddings with a few future brides. It is difficult to book weddings without the fully renovated space to show potential clients, Ferrara said, but popup events throughout the winter will showcase the changes to the building and give those who are interested a sneak peak as the space undergoes its transformation.

The beloved local haunt will host a popup live music event every Saturday this winter, each with a different dinner menu; just follow their Facebook to find out what they are serving and contact the restaurant to let them know which of the three available menu options you would prefer.

On Fridays throughout the winter, Stella’s will host Fish Fry on the Fly, a two-hour, dine-in or take-out dinner from 4 to 6 p.m.

Terry Ferrara’s daughter, Lauren Ferrara Carpenter, is a licensed aesthetician and has waitressed in the restaurant since Stella’s first began dinner service many years ago. She plans to one day take over the family business and expects that she will like it even more than waitressing, which she enjoyed quite a bit.

“I like people, and I like to joke around and have fun and get to know people,” Ferrara Carpenter said. “I’m also excited to be part of those special events and be there for those moments. It’s hard in a restaurant; you see people for 30 minutes or an hour, and they leave just when you get to know them, but if you’re part of their day you can help them choose a photographer, pick out centerpieces…it’s different. It’s a more personal thing.”

The mother and daughter agree that they don’t want the old building to lose any of its original charm. “I want to do more of a rustic elegance but not super formal,” said Ferrara Carpenter. “It’s still going to have that barn feel, but more upscale.”

So far, they have painted most of the interior and exterior of the building a neutral shade of pale gray. They plan to make some major changes to the building, including knocking down some of the interior walls and building a new entranceway, while keeping the bones of the structure intact.   

The event space will feature a weekend wedding package, Friday through Sunday, with a rehearsal dinner reception, use of the adjacent farmhouse to house guests, and a ceremony in the farmhouse’s expansive back yard. With its rolling hills, trellis archway and distant views, Ferrara envisions it being the perfect place for couples to say “I do.”

They hope to make the experience as easy and convenient as possible for their clients and their families, so the package will include everything from centerpieces to complementary makeup for the bride, done by Ferrara Carpenter, of course.

“So many people want all the bells and whistles and can’t afford it,” said Ferrara. “We’re hoping people will look at this as an affordable way to make their lives’ beginnings.”

Ferrara is making a new beginning for herself as well; she recently accepted a job in the kitchen at Ithaca Central School District. She loves the job—“they’ve got quite a diverse palette,” she said of the students, who recently enjoyed Ferrara’s pumpkin spice muffin tops—and the stability and regular hours of her new career will allow her to spend more time with her family, including Ferrara Carpenter’s two young children.

The Ferraras hope that the planned popup events will help keep them close to the community they have come to know and love so well.

“The teachers are bummed,” Ferrara said, referring to the teachers at the Newfield schools.  “They asked us if they could have happy hour here once a month, and I said ‘yeah, let us know!’ We’re open to everything because we can be; I just didn’t want that daily schedule with employees. It’s a little bit more difficult, working at Ithaca School District during the day.”

All the big changes have caused the family to reminisce a bit about the past. The restaurant, which used to be a plant nursery and greenhouse, was more of a cafe serving sandwiches and paninis when Ferrara first opened its doors. It expanded quickly from there, with Ferrara capitalizing on decades of experience in the food industry (most of it at Lucatelli’s in Ithaca) to create signature dishes like her seafood lasagna.

Those who want to stay on top of Stella’s schedule, including the popup music nights, can follow the restaurant on their Facebook page or visit them on Instagram at instagram.com/stellabrate.upstate.

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