New chef, GM add spice to Carson City's Cucina Lupo

Carson City’s Cucina Lupo Restaurant general manager Howard Jachens (left) with chef Yamil Melendez.

Carson City’s Cucina Lupo Restaurant general manager Howard Jachens (left) with chef Yamil Melendez.
Ronni Hannaman

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There’s been some recent changes within one of Carson’s favorite Italian restaurants that include not only some interior refresh, but personnel changes as well.

Long-time regional chef Howard Jachens is back in Carson City; however, this time he has left the familiarity of the kitchen to oversee the “front of the house” at Cucina Lupo to make certain not only are the customers happy with the food, but all aspects of what makes a restaurant the “go to” place when one thinks of eating out or just relaxing with friends after work while enjoying a cocktail and bar snacks.

Instead of Jachens in the kitchen, today you will find Yamil Melendez cooking and overseeing all that goes on in the wolf kitchen, the translation for Cucina Lupo.

He knows his way around a kitchen, having cooked in various establishments for 26 years. He’s prepared dishes in his native San Juan, Puerto Rico, for discerning guests during three years at the Ritz Carlton San Juan, later also at the Ritz Carlton in Truckee as their specialty chef.

Currently living in Reno, Melendez loves the “quiet atmosphere” of Carson City to which he has become accustomed during his 10-month tenure at Cucina Lupo, his first time as a chef for Liberty Foods. While he can prepare almost any dish, he loves preparing specialty Italian dishes for which the restaurant is known. His favorite is black spaghetti made with squid ink and says, “all the food we serve our guests is fresh, fresh, fresh from locally-sourced meats butchered in-house to freshly made pasta. Our foods come from Northern Nevada farmers and purveyors.”

Expect to see some of his cold-weather specials to include hearty cioppino to warm the body and soul. Melendez enjoys preparing seasonal dishes to add to favorite menu items. The bar is a popular community gathering place between 3-6 p.m. daily where friends meet during happy hour to exchange pleasantries. The specialty drink menu is worth perusing. Jared Price is the new bartender assisting the popular Katrina.

Cucina Lupo, a part of popular chef Mark Estee’s Liberty Food & Wine Exchange, opened on Nov. 12, 2019, in our historic downtown at 308 N. Curry Street. The restaurant instantly became a popular gathering spot until the pandemic hit in mid-March 2020 after operating only four months.

Putting the long COVID era well behind them, Jachens is planning new events to attract new customers while keeping current customers engaged.

“I have an extensive background in catering and hope to expand that part of our service. We also will be expanding our in-house service to include a private dining room for about 25,” Jachens said.

Expect to see more themed dinners. “I am just starting to think of new ideas that will attract more millennials and families,” he said.

Jachens is familiar with the Carson City market having served as chef for several local restaurants and most recently spent the last three years as the general manager of the Overland Restaurant in Gardnerville.

I’ve often wondered about the wolf symbolism used in the arresting art found on the walls within the restaurant. I learned that by using a symbolic lone wolf, Cucina Lupo could be communicating they are loyal to their customers, have a strong sense of family while retaining their individualism in an industry full of imitators, and can adapt under the most dire circumstances.

Cucina Lupo is adapting to the dire post-COVID world. When seeking out an upscale artistic restaurant featuring good service, excellent food, an interesting selection of wines served by certified sommelier Steve Sanchez in a casual setting befitting Carson City, think Cucina Lupo. Hours are Tuesday-Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. For reservations, call 775-461-0441.


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