Comfort Food Meets Innovation 1

Stella Modern Italian Cuisine

What does it mean to be a “modern Italian” restaurant? For the last seven years, Stella Modern Italian Cuisine, at 1201 N. Walker Ave. in the Midtown District, has developed a reputation for innovation and a modern Italian dining experience. Upon entering, all the right smells, including garlic, roasted tomatoes and parmesan cheese, waft past your nose. A nostalgic feeling accompanies the warm colors of the restaurant. Yet, all Italian restaurants are known for those ingredients and that comforting feeling, so what makes Stella unique?

For one thing, spaghetti and meatballs have never appeared on their menu—and it never will.

The intentionally missing entree on this Italian restaurant’s menu is “…really an Italian/American dish. The ‘modern’ part of our name allows us to do more classic Italian dishes … (and) create a little bit of a twist on them,” Lori Burson, owner and operator, says.

Armed with this flexibility, Melissa Aust, a classically trained chef, boldly innovates using Italian ingredients, creating original culinary delights while maintaining a classic feel.

So what dishes can be expected when dining at Stella Modern Italian Cuisine? Picture a large brick pizza oven with an arched opening dominating the center of the restaurant. The fire blazes as the pizza dough bakes to a perfect crisp. Chef Melissa has designed an innovative and tasty pizza, choosing seasonal fruit, such as pears, apples or roasted grapes to complement the salty nature of the prosciutto. Cradled in a homemade, thin, cracker-like crust, it banishes all pizza paradigms and offers the freedom to dream of what could be. Stella has taken plain ole pizza and elevated it to a new level, past the greasy and cheap to the exquisitely savory and sweet.

The space and seating work perfectly for a business meeting, a date, or a night out with friends.

“The way Italians dine is really about being with friends and family and having a dining experience,” Lori says. “You have a conversation over food.”

Because of their commitment to fresh ingredients, they do not utilize a deep fryer or microwave. As a result, Melissa and her team cook completely from scratch and to order.

“Everything is made-to-order, including the sauces,” Lori says.

Most restaurants carry gallons of ready-made sauces. However, when patrons ask for extra sauce, Melissa kindly asks them to wait 10 minutes so they can prepare more. The creamy, white wine garlic sauce that comes on the chicken scallopini has the perfect balance of richness and subtlety. Be sure to order extra sauce right away!

This summer, you can dine outdoors on their newly constructed patio and listen to local bands such as The Judge & the Jury during their Sunday “Boozy, Bluesy Gospel Brunch” starting at 10:30 a.m. Lori’s dream of a neighborhood restaurant was born when Stella Modern Italian came on the scene. Her love for excellent Italian food and her passion for building community have come together at Stella, so they regularly promote local events.

Stella offers a $9 lunch special that includes half a pizza and your choice of a salad or cup of soup. If you stop in for dinner and have a difficult time deciding, try the risotto, as it is one of the chef’s favorite items to cook. All three menus—bunch, lunch and dinner—are clearly marked for gluten-free customers. Hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday, 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday and 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Sunday.

Whether you choose to eat there during lunch, dinner or weekend brunch, you may have the pleasure of speaking with the chef. She’s outgoing and does not hide in the kitchen. So if you’re brave enough, ask to see her—she’s well worth meeting.

Stella Modern Italian Cuisine possesses an impressive ability to combine both aesthetic beauty and culinary expertise without any snobbery. Everyone is welcome and can come in “cargo shorts or a tuxedo.” It’s a mainstay that will keep surprising you with their seasonal menus and fresh, local ingredients. Stella Modern Italian Cuisine is truly the most authentic and most innovative Italian restaurant in this city.

For more information, visit or call 405.235.2200.