Lisa Dahl and Andrea DiLuca believe the basis of their success has been their complementary ways of sharing the kitchen.
For them, its depths stem from a passion born out of the loss of Lisa’s son, Justin Wesley Jones, and the two’s desire to own their own restaurant and a passion for cooking, felt by both Lisa and Andrea.
“I was a fashion sales representative but also had been a caterer and great cook who had a lifelong dream of owning my own restaurant,” Dahl said. "I met Andrea, who was a professional chef in Rome, in the Bay Area. After the tragic death of my son, we decided to move and start our life over again. Life lost meaning where we had lived for all of our lives.
"We heard Sedona was a very healing place. When I moved here I planned to continue my sales business. I went through the motions in hopes I could do something that had more meaning and it had always been my son's and my dream to own our restaurant. Then the opportunity to open a restaurant in this location came up. We felt the location was a godsend and that we were guided by a very special person, Candice Peterson, who had owned Samba Grille. We had a good feeling about the place and decided to do Italian dinners because of Andrea’s background.”
Dahl admits she was a bit intimidated about starting an Italian restaurant next to an already established Italian restaurant, Pietro's, but somehow the location just felt right. And to change their venue just didn’t seem appropriate either. So the two followed their hearts and made a success out of a location that had seen many failures.
Dahl believes the basis of their success has been due to their complementary ways of sharing the kitchen. While Andrea is the executive chef who works in the evenings and finalizes many of the dishes while overseeing his staff, Lisa is the sous-chef who works during the day, preparing many of the bases for the dinners.
“We have a consistency in our food, which isn’t a common thing in restaurants these days,” Dahl said. “It is an unusual thing with restaurants to have both owners as chefs who aren’t competitive but complement one another. Andrea is the choreographer of the kitchen and outstanding master of seafood and veal dishes.
"I have my own Marinara, which is the base to most Italian foods, that I have heard is the best people have tasted. I use this base on my eggplant, chicken Parmesan and almost anything on our menu. This is how we both mesh our individual contributions.”
In designing their menu, Dahl said they started with basic Italian recipes or signature dishes such as Tortellini della Nonna and Capellini al Pomodoro, and added their own twist to them.
Dahl said she also likes to give a little extra to her customers by providing an organically grown Insalata Mista (salad) or soup with each meal, something many restaurants are not providing any more.
“We have blended a very expensive salad blend with our organic lettuces, paying double that most people would pay to put together a salad, for our guests,” Dahl said. “It is one of our ways of coming from a place of generosity. The other is we make our portions big. Many people leave our restaurant with a to-go bag. We want people to have a quality and consistent experience for a very fair price. I think this is what people really do judge you on in the long run.”
As for new horizons, Dahl and DiLuca will launch a new venture called “Pronto Lunch." Hiring the chef from Pietro's, Alvara Bermudez, they will offer “comfort” lunch items such as a D&D signature sandwich, salads and soups to busy Sedonans.
Dahl said, “We will offer gourmet food, bringing a 'metro fee' specialty food boutique to Sedona.”
Dahl and DeLuca’s Ristorante Italiano is open seven days a week from 5 p.m. to closing. For more information, call 282-5291. The restaurant is located at 2321 W. Arizona 89A in Sedona.