Practically every young girl falls in love on or around her 16th birthday, but few of those affairs of the heart last a lifetime. Not so for Lori Tyler, though the object of her affection at that age wasn't the captain of the football team or a mysterious stranger from the wrong side of the tracks. No, Tyler fell in love with the food industry.
After studying psychology in college, working 16 years at other restaurants and spending seven years driving various nonprofit causes, Tyler has become what she's always dreamed of being: a restaurant owner.
Her dream came true April 22 when she opened Stella Modern Italian Cuisine. Stella is the new crown jewel of midtown, offering a sophisticated approach to rustic Italian food, chic interiors and attention to detail.
But Tyler is quick to point out the dream shared by her and her husband, Ty, could never have happened without help from the friends she made in her career working in other people's restaurants.
"This really has been a collective effort," Tyler said. "I've taken advice and been given help that has been invaluable in bringing this all together."
And it starts with the name, which came from an old friend who worked for her many years ago only to go on to his own success.
"The name came from Ryan Parrott," she said.
Parrott, the partner-chef of Iguana Mexican Grill, Season's Catering and Table One, said, "Lori told me she was opening an Italian restaurant and was looking for a name. I told her I'd always dreamed of opening an Italian place and calling it
"I asked him if I could use it," she said. "And he was gracious enough to say yes."
Tyler fell in love with the food business as a teenager working at Greenhouse Spa in Dallas, following up with a job at Bennigan's, which kept her funded through her degree work in psychology at the University of Dallas and set her up for the next big decision in life.
"My boyfriend lived in Oklahoma City, and I lived in Dallas," she said.
That boyfriend was Ty Tyler, long a local media mogul, and the two eventually married and settled in Oklahoma City. Lori went to work for the Val Gene restaurant group, helping open the original Pepperoni Grill in Penn Square Mall.
Pepperoni Grill brought the wood-oven concept to Oklahoma City for the first time, and Tyler has continued that tradition at Stella. As you walk in, the stainless brick oven greets you with a mellow, smoky hello. The aroma is a conduit to pleasant memories from bygone days by the fireplace.
But Tyler's business relationship with the wood oven was secondary to the one she had with her boss, Pete Holloway.
"Peter means the world to me," she said. "He's been a true mentor for me, and he's helped so much along the way in this process."
Holloway went on from Val Gene to open Boulevard Steakhouse and 501 Cafe in Edmond and to buy Classen Grill. Tyler worked in some capacity for all those concepts through the years. But after 16 years as general manager of Boulevard, she left the business altogether to concentrate on charity work.
Stella Modern Italian Cuisine
• Where: 1201 N Walker Ave.
• Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
• Reservations: Call 235-2200 or go to www.
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Watch the Food Dude's visit to Stella: