Valter Nassi Death – The kind restaurateur Valter Nassi, who ran a great Italian restaurant in Salt Lake City for more than 20 years, has passed away.
Utah Governor Spencer Cox tweeted on Wednesday morning that Nassi passed away on Tuesday. The cause of death was not mentioned by Cox or his predecessor, former governor Gary Herbert, who both expressed their condolences on Wednesday. Aged 76, Nassi.
According to Cox’s tweet, Nassi was “an icon in Utah” who “made his impression on everyone who met him or eaten at Valter’s.”
Herbert mentioned in his essay that Nassi was given the 2006 Governor’s Mansion Artist Award for culinary arts. Valter’s Osteria, the eatery bearing Nassi’s name, was lauded by Herbert as the best location to “go for a delicious lunch and Valter’s larger-than-life attitude.”
Nassi opened Valter’s Osteria in downtown Salt Lake City in 2012 at 173 West 300 South. The eatery bills itself as “a contemporary take on a Tuscan granary.” On the menu was a homemade lasagna made with his mother’s meat sauce recipe and a straightforward bean soup that Nassi regarded as one of his best dishes.
He definitely raised the bar in Salt Lake City. The executive director of the Salt Lake Area Restaurant Association, Michele Corigliano, referred to him as a legend. He’s been around for a very long time. I think he was one of the most charismatic business owners I’ve ever met. Really, it’s a huge loss for Utah’s dining scene.
Nassi served as the public face of Cucina Toscana, a Tuscan trattoria located at 300 S. 300 West, across from Pioneer Park, from 2003 to 2012. One of Salt Lake City’s first truly upscale Italian eateries was Cucina Toscana, where Nassi established a reputation for his warm, flamboyant, and consistently amiable presence in addition to his culinary prowess.
A little medieval village south of Florence, Italy’s Monte San Savino, is where Valter Nassi was born in 1946. He claimed that his father’s career as a mushroom merchant and his mother’s kitchen were the foundations of his culinary training. Nassi described his father as “an exceptionally good eater.”
Nassi traveled extensively throughout his career, working at restaurants in London, Gstaad, Genoa, Nairobi, Kenya, and New York City.
Nassi relocated to Salt Lake City in 1996 with his wife, Phyllis, and son, Enrico. He was brought on board to oversee Il Sansovino, a brand-new Italian eatery located in the American Stores corporate office building, a large skyscraper at Main Street and 300 South in the heart of Salt Lake City. (The structure is now known as the Wells Fargo Center, and KUTV, Channel 2 now resides in the area that used to house shops and restaurants.)
In a 2010 interview with The Salt Lake Tribune, Nassi claimed that the moment he arrived at the airport and saw the dozens of people holding “welcome home” posters made him fall in love with “my Salt Lake City.”
I have lived all over the world, and I have never encountered something so warm and inviting as that, Nassi stated. I have fallen in love with this lovely city.
Il Sansovino, called after the place where he was born, was brief. It began operations in the spring of 1998 and ended operations in June of 1999. Nassi was becoming known as a gracious host and a supporter of Salt Lake City, but this was only the beginning.
At the request of developer Ken Milo, who was converting the former Firestone building at 300 West and 300 South into a dining, retail, and residential facility, Nassi opened Cucina Toscana in 2003.
Nassi was given the Tourism Achievement Award by the Salt Lake Convention & Visitors Bureau in 2010 in recognition of his assistance to the city.
Nassi foresaw a significant increase in Salt Lake City’s culinary expertise at the time, which many believe he assisted in moving forward. He added, “I might exaggerate because I provide electricity for the city, but I don’t think I do too much.”
Nassi stated in 2010 that “We are becoming a gastronomic city,” citing the 2002 Winter Olympics’ positive economic impact as well as downtown’s renovation and the upcoming inauguration of the City Creek Center.
“Look at all the new restaurants that have opened, and the young chefs that are moving here. That is necessary,” he remarked. Listen closely. This town is prepared for a large influx of tourists who will praise it for being excellent.
Nassi announced his retirement from the restaurant in 2012 when Cucina Toscana intended to open a quick-serve location. He didn’t remain away from the industry for very long because the same year, he began working at Valter’s Osteria, a few streets east.
In the “excellent hospitality” category of the James Beard Awards, Valter’s Osteria was a semi-finalist at the beginning of the year.
According to Corigliano, Vartter was the top personality in front-of-house restaurants. “He truly set the standard for high-end eating in Utah,” a local said. “I know that we had so many people from out of town, corporations in especially, would want to bring their visitors to Valter’s.”
The other national claim to fame for Nassi is less impressive. For a spectacular luncheon hosted by now-ex-Housewife Mary Cosby on Bravo’s reality series “The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City,” Nassi opened the doors of Valter’s Osteria in 2020. The meal, which is described in the first-season episode “Ladies Who Lunch,” was meant to put the bickering women at ease, but it quickly turned into a yelling match, with Cosby and Jen Shah being the main participants.
Cosby once commanded silence and said, “I don’t want this around Valter…. He’s currently really upset. Then the camera moved to Nassi, who was unflappable and stone-faced. This image served as the inspiration for the joke that “Valter is upset” became known for.
Enrico Nassi, his son, and Phyllis Pettit Nassi, his wife, survive Nassi.
Funeral arrangements have not yet been made public.