Award-winning Salt Lake restaurateur, 'Utah icon' Valter Nassi dies

Valter Nassi, Salt Lake City's consummate host, is photographed at his restaurant in Salt Lake City in 2014. Nassi died Tuesday night following a health battle. He was 76.

Valter Nassi, Salt Lake City's consummate host, is photographed at his restaurant in Salt Lake City in 2014. Nassi died Tuesday night following a health battle. He was 76. (Lee Benson, Deseret News)

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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah leaders and foodies are offering condolences for the death of award-winning local chef Valter Nassi, the owner of the upscale Italian restaurant Valter's Osteria in downtown Salt Lake City.

Gov. Spencer Cox tweeted Tuesday: "Last night we lost a dear friend and a Utah icon. Valter Nassi left his mark on everyone who met him or dined at Valter's. He will be deeply missed."

Former Gov. Gary Herbert said in a tweet he is saddened by the passing of Nassi, whom he also called a Utah icon. Valter's Osteria was given the Governor's Award for Culinary Arts and is where Herbert and his wife go for "a great meal and Valter's larger than life personality."

According to the restaurant, Nassi died Tuesday night following a health battle. He was 76.

"Valter has created a monument for Salt Lake, his city. The staff at Valter's Osteria hope to continue on his legacy and create a place where you can feel his spirit going forward. We will miss him," the restaurant said in a statement.

Valter's Osteria is widely considered one of Utah's best restaurants and has gained prominence and fans from across the nation.

Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said the restaurant has amazing food and the Warriors often rent it out for team dinners when they are in town to play the Utah Jazz.

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall said on Twitter that Nassi had a way of making everyone feel special and loved.

"He was an icon and beloved mainstay in our #slc community. I know thousands the world over will feel this loss. My thoughts and love are with his family and loved ones," Mendenhall said.

Nassi was born in Italy and trained in Sardinia, London, Paris, Nairobi and New York City. He came to Utah in 1998 when he opened his first restaurant Il Sansovino. Although that first restaurant didn't last long, Nassi fell in love with Salt Lake City and decided to stay.

In an interview in 2014 with the Deseret News, Nassi said he was living the dream in Utah.

When asked why he has had such popularity for so long, Nassi said, "It's about people. You have to give respect to them and you will get respect from them back. Celebrate the people and let them enjoy the magic. What more in life do you want as a human being than this? To create the possibility and let people enjoy."

From that interview, Lee Benson wrote: "It is not Salt Lake City," Valter proclaims, his hands waving about as if he's guiding a plane to a landing. "It is Salt Lake My City. Do you understand? Salt Lake My City. Wow!"

The Real Housewives of SLC also posted on Instagram: "Salt Lake City has lost culinary artist and restaurateur Valter Nassi." Valter's Osteria was featured on an episode of "The Real Housewives of SLC."

Derek Miller, president and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber and Downtown Alliance, said the city lost a friend when Nassi died.

"For more than 20 years, Valter Nassi has been a pillar of downtown Salt Lake City and helped create the culinary scene that exists today," Miller said in a statement. "People from all over the globe know Utah because they know Valter. They know his name, his exuberance, and his love of life. These qualities are greatly needed at this time. His legacy will be remembered for years to come, and his life serves as a model for all to follow."

In 2018, Nassi was awarded the New American Dream Award by the Salt Lake Chamber, which honored "new pioneers" and the positive impact of immigrants and how they have helped shape Utah's history since the Mormon Pioneers entered the Salt Lake Valley as refugees in 1847.

Valter's Osteria told on Wednesday night that a celebration of life will be held for Valter Nassi on Nov. 10 at 6 p.m. at the Cathedral of the Madeline in Salt Lake City. "All are welcome to attend."

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