Handmade Pizza Brings Memories Back and People Together 8

Stella Modern Italian’s Owner and Chef Share One of their Favorite Recipes

Lori Burson, owner and founder of Stella Modern Italian in Midtown, lived on pizza while studying in Rome. The pizza in Italy, however, is vastly different from pizza in America, and she developed a passion for fresh, seasonal ingredients, mascarpone cheese and crispy, hand-sculpted crusts.

Melissa Aust, executive chef of Stella, also has a love for handcrafted pizza, even though she never really intended to end up in Oklahoma. For the two women of Stella Modern Italian, nothing says a lasting friendship and bringing people together like pizza and Italian food.

“I’ve been in the restaurant business for 16 years, and I spent my sophomore year in Italy,” Burson says. “Italians appreciate food and experiencing food. Here, sometimes it feels like food is something you put into your body, but in Italy, a dinner can last a couple of hours. They go to the market to buy fresh every day. We wanted to bring that to Oklahoma City with Stella.”

Aust originally hailed from southern California and began cooking after her mother passed away when Aust was 22. She discovered a love of cuisine, left her family business to attend culinary school and eventually worked as a chef at Martha’s Vineyard. A cross-country trip back to California brought her through Oklahoma City to see a friend who worked at Stella, and she was hooked.

“Our tenderloin pizza has been on the menu for three or four years now, but we rotate the chicken pizza on and off depending on the season,” Aust says. “With pizza like this, the crust is the vessel to get the ingredients at the top into your mouth. It’s all about using the best and fresh ingredients.”

Chicken Pizza

  • Sun-dried tomato mascarpone base 
(See recipe below)
  • Shredded fontina cheese
  • House smoked chicken (oven roasted or grilled chicken can be substituted)
  • Oven roasted cherry tomatoes—lightly oiled, salt and pepper roasted at 350 F for 15 minutes
  • Freshly shaved shallots
  • Micro or regular arugula to garnish

Tenderloin Pizza

  • Base of garlic confit oil
  • Shredded fontina cheese
  • 2-ounce medium-rare sliced tenderloin
  • Shiitake and crimini mushrooms sautéed in butter, salt and pepper, and fresh parsley
  • Caramelized yellow onions
  • Crumbled gorgonzola
  • Housemade agrodolce (sweet and sour) or well-aged balsamic vinegar
  • Chopped chives to garnish

1. Using a pre-made/pre-cooked crust, bake at 10 minutes at 400 F or until the cheese has melted.

2. In the summer, you can get pre-made pizza dough at Trader Joe’s, roll out to desired size, grill to about 75 percent doneness.

3. Remove from grill, add topping and return to grill with lid closed and cook off direct heat for about 5-10 minutes or until cheese has melted and bottom of the crust is crisp.

Sun-dried Tomato Mascarpone

  • 4 cups mascarpone
  • 2 cups sun-dried tomato pesto
  • 1 teaspoon salt and white pepper

1. Mix all ingredients and store, label and date.