**Join Stella Monday, May 21st at 7pm for a Round Pond Estate 4-Course Wine Dinner. Make your reservation by Saturday, May 19th at 5pm by calling 405-235-2200. Mention “Allied Arts” at dinner for the organization to receive a portion of proceeds.**
Today’s featured partner is Stella Modern Italian Cuisine, a staple of Midtown OKC run by creative and community-oriented Lori Burson. Stella thrives through a focus on fine cuisine, superb wine, and a neighborhood atmosphere.
Lori, you were inspired to create Stella’s concept after studying in Rome during college. What attracted you to the restaurant industry?
I graduated from the University of Dallas, and at first, the industry was a big part of the way I paid for college. I studied and enjoyed psychology, but when I finished school I decided I wanted to focus on my passion of food and wine.
Community and the arts are developing an increasing importance in Oklahoma City. How do you work to bring these two elements together?
I had been in the industry for a long time in OKC and then took a break before opening Stella, doing lots of community work for organizations such as Oklahoma Contemporary, the American Red Cross, Oklahoma City Ballet, and the YMCA. I try to choose nonprofits that I have a personal interest in. My degree was in art before I switched to psychology in college, so I lean toward supporting the arts.
As a business owner, I realize that as larger companies look at our city to move and expand, they look at what we have to offer. One aspect is our impact on future generations, so I love to support nonprofits that offer programs for youth education.
Can you tell us about your favorite experiences serving the community?
I have loved supporting Arts Council Oklahoma City’s Festival of the Arts for several years. The experience of being downtown and working hand-in-hand with the artists, whether covering a booth or assisting with other event needs, is important. This year, I I’m serving as a chair of Oklahoma Contemporary’s fundraiser, “The Art of Brunch,” which will take place Saturday, June 16th in Campbell Art Park.
My experiences with community organizations have changed through the years to adapt to my career changes. When I was taking time off before creating Stella, I was able to focus totally on volunteer work. Now that I own my own restaurant, my hours are fewer, so I can’t do as much hands-on support. Now I try to support the community through my restaurant in the ways that I can.
What are your favorite dishes at Stella?
Our menu changes frequently, so it really depends on the day. I get obsessed with certain seasonal entrées and so I try to enjoy them as often as possible before the menu changes again to a new season. [Check out their current dinner menu HERE.]
What do the arts mean to you? Why are they important for our community?
I mentioned that the arts help to attract new businesses and bring larger ones to our city. Arts organizations also work to keep elements of art and culture around us, which helps to enhance all of our lives. Stella offered its first season of Arts on the Patio last year, and we look forward to bringing it back with live local music on Thursdays starting after Memorial Day. We’ll also bring in a new feature of live music on Saturdays during brunch.
Why do you support Allied Arts through participation in the OKCityCard Partnership?
Because of the quality of the products that we serve, Stella does not offer coupons or promotions. The OKCityCard Partner offer is only one of two ways that you can get a discount at the restaurant. That is because we believe in supporting the arts and helping to bring business to local establishments.