Meet the Chef: Diego Critelli of Lucca

Meet the Chef: Diego Critelli of Lucca

After owning and operating a restaurant in Padua, Italy, chef Diego Critelli is making the move to Des Moines. He has joined Steve Logsdon’s Lucca in the East Village, where he’ll bring years of experience as a chef and sommelier.

Critelli learned the art of cooking from his father, who opened Ai Porteghi in Padua in 1983. After his father’s retirement in 2003, Critelli took over as head chef and owner, running the restaurant along with his wife. His connection with Des Moines began in 2005, when he attended Winefest and met Logsdon, owner and chef at Lucca.

The two chefs continued their conversation over the years, especially during a handful of trips Critelli made to Des Moines to teach classes as part of the Iowa Culinary Institute at Des Moines Area Community College, where he had been invited by chef Robert Anderson. When Critelli began seriously looking for a new opportunity to cook in the United States, going to work for Lucca was an easy decision.

Critelli has spent time working in Paris as a sommelier, and he’s also been featured in a number of cooking shows broadcast on Italian TV and available on the Internet. His restaurant, Ai Porteghi, focuses on traditional cuisine from the Veneto region of Italy.

Q: What are your favorite ingredients to cook with?

Mediterranean ingredients — tomatoes, peppers, olives, oregano, rosemary.

Q: How would you describe your style as a chef?

I learned most of what I know from my father. My way of cooking is very simple, very clean. People have to taste the ingredients … don’t go overboard with spices.

Q: What is different about working in Des Moines vs. Padua?

The people here eat faster. (As a chef) you have to be ready before people come in the restaurant. Also, people here are very curious about new food, so we have no problem serving a lot of different foods.

Q: What’s appealing about living here?

I find Des Moines a very safe place, with good schools for the children. It’s more affordable.

Q: What’s coming up at Lucca?

We want to open the lounge upstairs, a more casual place where people can enjoy wine and antipasti or a dish.


About the Author

Laura is contributor to Juice Magazine.



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