A native of Venezuela, Ilma Lopez grew up in the kitchen, alongside her grandmother. After getting her start at Malabar in Caracas, she was accepted to the pastry program at Stratford University in Virginia. Today, Lopez is the co-owner and pastry chef at Blue Rooster Food Co. and Piccolo in Portland, Maine. Her husband, 2009 New York Rising Star Chef Damian Sansonetti, is the savory chef and co-owner.
Like Sansonetti, Lopez is a veteran of some of the most demanding and rewarding kitchens in the industry, such as DB Bistro, Corton, Tailor, El Bulli, Café Boulud, and Le Bernardin. When the couple was drawn from New York City to the quieter reaches of the Northeast, Lopez found a new terrain she couldn’t resist. Arriving with a mastery of colors, flavors, textures, and spices—and a seasoned ability to work under pressure—Lopez makes classic dishes her own, with attention to micro-detail and thoughtful twists. For her work, Lopez earned a 2014 StarChefs Coastal New England Rising Star Pastry Chef Award.
In 2016, Lopez and Sansonetti took over local favorite Caiola’s and have maintained the spirit of the restaurant as a place for neighbors, family, and friends to gather in Portland’s West End. Pastas, steaks, and ragus are all on the menu, which will evolve as Lopez and Sansonetti dig in.
Awards & Press
- James Beard Award