The creation of owner Lori Burson, Stella has established itself as a destination in the city’s Midtown district by offering delicious, modern takes on Italian classics in a neighborhood restaurant just minutes away from downtown and Bricktown.
Lori realized a lifelong dream of owning her own restaurant when she opened Stella in April 2010. She chose a location blocks away from her own home because her dream was always to create a neighborhood restaurant where friends, family, and customers could gather to experience dining, not just grab a meal.
“When I studied in Rome, I was impressed with the way Italian people experienced a meal,” Lori said. “They didn’t just rush through the meal; they enjoyed the wine, the conversation, the presence of friends. It’s what I wanted to replicate with Stella.”
Lori spent many years opening and managing some of Oklahoma City’s best restaurants, but her goal was always to open her own place. To ensure easy access and proximity to her own Heritage Hills neighborhood, she chose Midtown as the location.
Midtown has experienced a renaissance in the past decade. Beautiful, old buildings have been refurbished, professionals and creative types are moving in, and a thriving dining and night life scene is emerging. The proximity to downtown - Thunder games are three minutes away - make Midtown a convenient destination before a game or event.
One of those beautiful, old buildings is Stella’s home. In the early 1920s, Anderson-Prichard built the facility as a gas station to service the neighborhood. Prior to 1930, oil companies were experimenting with service stations in residential areas. To attract customers, they chose large corner lots and erected attractive buildings, very unlike the service stations we know today. The building has been re-envisioned many times over the decades, but the basic structure remains intact, including the bay doors which are now large picture windows.
To oversee the transition of the building to Stella’s beautiful interior, Lori hired well-known interior designer Alice Cottrell. In her nearly three decades of work, Cottrell has worked with Donald Trump and the St. Regis Hotel. She has been featured in Elle Decor, Paper City, Texas Monthly, and Metropolitan Home.
The heart of Stella is the food, though. Lori works in conjunction with Executive Chef Melissa Aust and their experienced kitchen staff to develop menu items that are fresh, local, and seasonal. The menu changes each season but some features and customer favorites, remain year-round, but most of the items change quarterly. The winter menu begins mid- January.
At the end of Stella’s beautiful bar is the brick oven where the Roman-style (thin crust) pizzas are made. The menu always contains a number of pizza choices. The menu also features appetizers, salads, soups, pasta dishes, seafood, and steak. You won’t find spaghetti on the menu; this is modern Italian, after all, but the pasta dishes are hearty, creative, and delicious.
Stella also offers aperitivo which in Italy is a gathering before a meal which can last hours. Aperitif may be compared to the British habit of stopping by a pub after work on your way home but still, it is something different in Italy and at Stella because, of course, Italians always concentrate on food. The best bars in Milan are constantly competing to organize the best known aperitivo in the city and Stella is competing against them in Oklahoma City. Tuesday through Friday from 4-6:30 guests that choose to enjoy the bartop or patio dining can order off the “aperitif menu” that offers a changing selection of half price pizzas, appetizers and a daily $4 chef’s choice. Neighborhood residents and downtown employees on their way home all enjoy the feel of the bar where they can visit with friends and make new friends.
Lori along with Todd Davis, general manager, and a very talented bar staff, also change the cocktail list seasonally. Lori and the staff take great pride in the fact that the cocktails use seasonal products and concentrate on Italian liquors. Stella offers one of the most extensive Italian lists in Oklahoma. Lori personally selects each wine that goes on the list, focusing primarily on small production boutique wineries. A new patio was added this year allowing
For business travelers and conventioneers, Stella is open for lunch Tuesday through Friday. Its location in Midtown makes it a convenient lunch destination from downtown hotels, the convention center, and the fairgrounds. A separate lunch menu (and brunch on Saturday and Sunday) features items priced reasonably from $9-$14.
Dress at Stella is eclectic. Lori wants guests to feel comfortable in jeans and t-shirts before the game or in evening attire before the Philharmonic. Dressed up or dressed down, everyone will be made to feel welcome and comfortable.
Stella is located at 1201 North Walker. For reservations call 405-235-2200 or visit www.stellaokc.com.
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