Taste February 1, 2024

Lupo Takes the Lead

David Cruz revamps Il Naso

After 25 years, Ketchum Italian restaurant Il Naso will be put to rest. In its place will be Lupo, a Mediterranean restaurant that owner and chef, David Cruz, has been slowly developing and researching since he bought out his partner, Jim Fosler, a little over two years ago. Lupo is Cruz’s first solo ownership venture and it promises to bring new life to the old Il Naso space, changing décor, ambiance, menu, and attitude. With plenty of feedback gathered from his staff and diners, and a fair amount of patience on Cruz’s part, the time to launch Lupo has come.

Before partnering in Il Naso three years ago, Cruz had lived in the Sun Valley area on and off for 30 years. During that time, he opened numerous food and beverage concepts for celebrity chefs, owners, and development companies in global vacation destinations like Marrakesh, Shanghai, Dubai, Bogota, Cabo and Bangkok. While that life was exciting, it was also a lot of work, and Cruz felt drawn to come back to Ketchum, where his sister and brother-in-law have lived for years. Eventually, Cruz realized he needed and wanted to support his lifestyle here. “I figured if I was going to make a living in Ketchum, I’d have to do something more than just snowboard and climb,” says Cruz.

That something was coming on as head chef and partner at Il Naso. Still, a year into the partnership, the opportunity came up for Cruz to buy the restaurant from Fosler. But after continuing Il Naso’s path for 25 years, Cruz realized he wanted a change. “I’m not Il Naso. I don’t care to be Il Naso. I care to be myself. I want to actually make my own name for myself.”

That name is Lupo, Italian for “wolf,” which Cruz says reflects the restaurant’s spirit. Lupo is so many things that Il Naso was not: Where Il Naso’s menu hardly changed, Lupo’s menu featuress daily specials and also incorporates seasonal ingredients so often that the main menu changes often. “The feedback I hear from my customers is that they want a restaurant that’s serving peaches when peaches are in season.”

The Lupo menu, which Cruz describes as “seafood-forward,” features much more of the Mediterranean area than just Italy; in the winter, Lupo will lean heavier on comfort food with a northern Mediterranean (Italian, French) spin. At the same time, summer will be fresher food from southern Italian, north African, Spanish, and Greek cuisine. Some ingredients you’ll find across the menu are octopus, hummus, quinoa, amaranth, diver scallops and monkfish.

The restaurant itself has modernized as well. Where there were once red walls, ceilings, and curtains, there are now light-colored painted walls, modern window treatments, and a selection of plants adding life to the space. Even the music has been changed to be more contemporary. Cruz also plans to do a patio remodel next summer.

Perhaps the biggest change, though, according to Cruz, is a shift in attitude for him and his whole staff. Cruz refers to his employees as his family and prides himself on knowing the strengths of each of his team members. “From day one, our attitudes changed, our expectations of ourselves changed, and then obviously that translated into better food. That translated into better service. That translates into caring.”

This article appears in the Issue of Sun Valley Magazine.