As a boy in Newport Beach, Greg Neville was exposed to the fresh ingredients and fine dining of the California coast. His childhood taught him to love great food, but it wasn’t until his teens that his passion was born. At seventeen, Greg traveled to Italy with his family. As awed as he was of the sites of Lake Como, the structures of Florence, and the art along the Rhine River, he found himself more inspired by the Italian kitchens and was invited each morning to help the chefs prepare for their guests.
Greg moved to Europe, where he began his higher education at Franklin College in Lugäno, Switzerland. He received his Associate of Arts degree in Art History and returned to his home state of California to work towards his Bachelors of Arts degree in economics and history at UCLA. As Greg obtained his degrees, he continued to find his real inspiration in the culinary world, and worked for many high end restaurants.
Although Greg’s passion remained in the kitchen, he applied and was accepted to one of the top Masters of Business Administration programs in the United States. He moved to Arizona and obtained his MBA from Thunderbird University with an emphasis in International Finance.
After graduating from Thunderbird, Greg combined his culinary passion with his extensive business knowledge and returned to his home state of California, where he was Executive Chef/Partner at Hotel Donatello in San Francisco and later joined the team at Il Fornaio as Executive Chef/Partner.
While at Il Fornaio, Greg impressed a group of diners from Salt Lake City. Shortly after their visit, he received an attractive offer to work for their thriving restaurant group, Gastronomy, as Executive Chef. Greg never expected to find a culinary future in Salt Lake City, and at first found the offer humorous. After multiple trips to meet with Gastronomy executives, he began to find the offer appealing and packed up his belongings to move east.
While at Gastronomy, Greg fell in love with the Utah mountains, the tight-knit Salt Lake community, and his wife, Julie. He enjoyed the fast-paced environment of Gastronomy, but after three years chose to move to make a move to the mountains to direct the food and beverage operations at Solitude Resort. After two seasons, he received a call that would lead him back to California.
Greg and Julie packed up and moved to the coast. Back in California, he took over as Executive Chef at MacArthur Park in Palo Alto, then Executive Chef at Tutto Mare Ristorante in Newport Beach. He then took on the extreme challenge of Operations Officer/Executive Chef of Spectrum Foods, Inc. At Spectrum he created recipes for 13 restaurants and oversaw $43 million in annual sales. As he traveled back and forth from Northern to Southern California weekly, he and Julie yearned for the simpler life of family, friends and roots in Salt Lake City.
Greg knew he was ready to create his own restaurant and those who worked with him knew he would succeed. Julie scouted restaurant locations in Salt Lake, while he continued to travel the California coastline. After several failed attempts in California and Salt Lake to secure a location, Greg and Julie found the perfect site on a ski trip to Utah in early 2000. They quickly moved through zoning and viability issues and signed the lease for the new Lugäno restaurant that spring.
Life became very busy, very fast. Greg worked throughout the week for Spectrum as he traveled from their restaurants in Newport to those in San Francisco. At the end of each week, he would travel through Salt Lake City to spend the weekend preparing his own restaurant for opening. Julie was a new mother to their first daughter and she jumped in to work overtime in the design and décor of the building.
At the end of May, Greg quit his job at Spectrum, rented a U-haul to carry restaurant fixtures and their personal belongings and drove to Salt Lake City. On July 10, 2000, Lugäno opened to the public and quickly received local and national acclaim for its rustic Italian menu and extensive wine list.
As a team, Greg and Julie opened their first restaurant with the clear intent of making Salt Lake their home. Greg felt an immediate desire to work with local talent, purchase from area suppliers, use Utah ingredients whenever possible, and participate in community programs and charities. He also made it a personal goal to know his clientele and greet all those who entered his doors as friends.
Just a year after opening Lugäno, the restaurant’s success made it possible to take over an on-site building and open The Loggia, a private facility for group functions. Two years later, after Julie had recently delivered their second daughter, a third building behind Lugäno became available. It was the perfect time to open a café. Julie began renovations and Radda Caffé was opened, making the area a culinary campus.
In June of 2008, Lugäno will celebrate eight awarded years of fine Italian dining.