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Published June 09. 2022 9:30AM 

A ‘Welcome to the Family’ sign hangs on the wall of La Stella Pizzeria on Market Street in Norwich. For owner Justin Burrows, his restaurant is his family, and food is love.
“The best part of my life growing up was food and being around the dining room table. My mother cooked every night. My dad’s family always had Italian cookies. I always appreciated those things. For me food is love, food is happy. It’s an experience,” he said. These things are what have driven the young entrepreneur to successfully bring La Stella to celebrate 20 years of business.
Burrows celebrated the milestone anniversary of La Stella of Friday, May 20, welcoming guests with free pizza slices and cake.
Though he has owned the restaurant only since January 2020, Burrows has been a member of the La Stella family since 2010, first working there as a delivery driver for then-owner Jack Djombali (Jack’s Brick Oven Pizza). He went on to work as a manager at Geno’s at Mohegan Sun, and when picking up take-out on Halloween in 2019, he was posed the question: “Do you know anyone who would like to buy this restaurant?”
The answer came easy.
“Jack had something that was great. Later on, I always said to the other staff, ‘Man, if I had this place, this is what I would do,’” he said.
His dream of opening and running his own restaurant stuck with him, so when he was posed the question, he said he’d like to buy it.
His goal was to hold true to what Djombali began La Stella as — a place for the community to come together and enjoy good food.
Burrows expanded the brand last year and opened La Stella Italian Market, featuring pasta and pastries.
“My favorite memories are making pasta with my mom, so I definitely wanted a pasta shop with Italian pastries,” he said.
That legacy is important to him. Coming from an Italian family, he envisioned the restaurant with genuine Italian food, and his mother even makes her fresh manicotti. “Everything we do, you taste it in a dish and can tell that there was love put into it,” he said.
He’s so inspired by having authentic cuisine that he took his entire staff to Italy last year and plans to do the same again this year. The group participated in cooking classes and took back what they learned to the restaurant.
This year they plan to learn how to make Roman breads and Sfogliatella while there. They were also educated on Italian wines — La Stella boasts a 100% Italian wine list, a rarity in the area.
The continuity of the La Stella name, Burrows said, is simple: “We’ll always be a staple because we put out good product. We practice what we preach and have a loyal group of amazing customers. Our goal is to be able to give back. We’re very blessed.”
He’s ecstatic at the success of La Stella, coming full circle, and growing further as a family.
“From day one, it’s been the same recipe for the sauce. I think of La Stella as a people’s staple forever. If people enjoy real Italian cuisine, and a family restaurant that’s moderately priced, they should come to La Stella,” he said. “I know one day we’ll be celebrating 50 years.”
Dr. Douglas Canning, 65, of Philadelphia was born in New London and grew up and attended Robert E. Fitch High School in Groton.

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