Marco Silva’s The Charleston Is Neither Fast Nor Casual

It is the unlikeliest of locations, set amid subdivisions and stray parcels of soon-to-be-sold family land in Draper. Set back from the road, in a historic Victorian home surrounded by shady oaks, you’ll find The Charleston Draper—an ode to civilization and high style that is the life’s work of its impresario-chef Marco Silva.

Silva was born in São Paulo, Brazil where he first learned to cook at a young age. His mother, a classical violinist and accomplished musician in the San Paulo symphony, however, did not foresee her son in chef’s whites and sent him to Lisbon to study classical piano. Alas, the food and nightlife of Lisbon entranced young Silva, and after graduation from Lisbon Academy, he followed his passion to Paris, where he funded his coursework at no less than the Le Cordon Bleu by playing piano in nightclubs around the City of Lights.

Trés romantique, no?

“My mother was disappointed at first,” he says. “But when she saw me cook for the first time, saw what joy it brought me, that I was performing a different kind of music, she understood. I am lucky to have a mother who only wants me to be happy. And the gift of music I will always have, thanks to her.” (As is evidenced by the two baby grand pianos in The Charleston, where he often sits and plays.)

The Charleston
Photo by Adam Finkle/Salt Lake magazine

From that moment, Chef Marco embarked on a journey literally around the world. To name just a few stamps on his passport, he has worked in the Hilton in Dubai, a luxury hotel in Papua New Guinea, private rail cars across the United States and made a name for himself as a private chef cooking in residences in New York, Boca Raton, Dallas and, finally, Park City, which, eventually leads this award-winning, globe-trotting chef and his partner Steve Cappellucci to a 150-year-old home in Draper. He met Naomi Martinsen, who owned the Terry Home, built in 1878 by Joshua Terry, a mountain man, scout and Indian interpreter for LDS Presidents Brigham Young and John Taylor and one of the first settlers to explore Draper after the LDS emigration to Utah in 1847. Martinsen was looking to sell the property, which, at that point, she was running as The Charleston Café, a small coffee shop. Silva met her for lunch to discuss the property and the story might have just stopped there.

“She was getting older and thinking of selling the restaurant,” he says. “But at that point, I wasn’t really thinking about owning a restaurant in Utah. ”

Then, the very next night, Martinsen happened to be a guest at one of Silva’s dinners at a private home in Sandy. She came back to the kitchen to compliment the chef and was pleasantly surprised to find Silva in the kitchen.

Silva, however, was still not quite certain he wanted to open a restaurant in Utah but the Charleston intrigued him. “The moment I first pulled into the parking lot I thought, ‘this place is gorgeous.’” But then, in November of 2017, shortly after first meeting her, Martinsen died suddenly of cancer.

Chef Marco Silva of The Charleston
Chef Marco Silva (Photo by Adam Finkle/Salt Lake magazine)

“It was very emotional and I told Steve, ‘we have to do this,’” he says. “We signed the papers and opened The Charleston Draper on Nov. 7, 2017. It was meant to be.”

You are probably by now realizing that Chef Marco doesn’t do anything halfway and once he was in, he was all-in. He and Cappellucci completely renovated and upgraded the 150-year-old building, expanding the coffee shop into five dining rooms on two floors and expanded patio and garden spaces. They installed old-world touches like elegant crystal chandeliers and decorating embellishments inspired by years of global travel, sweating over every detail down to trickling Italian fountain on the oak-shaded patio.

His international sensibilities touch everything from the classic cuisine to, yes, the restaurant’s dress code and adults-only policy.

“I was raised in Brazil and spent many years in Europe,” he says. “Until I was 12 years old, I didn’t participate in parties with adults. I have fond memories of going to the opera house in Paris in a black tie. You don’t bring babies into a fine dining restaurant or show up in flip flops or pajamas. Now I share my standards here. We have discovered that our guests truly want a place to dress up, a place where they can be together as couples and friends and share an experience.”

If you go

The Charleston
1229 Pioneer Road, Draper

Read more about The Charleston Draper here. For more food and drink, subscribe to Salt Lake.

Jeremy Pugh
Jeremy Pugh
Jeremy Pugh is Salt Lake magazine's Editor. He covers culture, history, the outdoors and whatever needs a look. Jeremy is also the author of the book "100 Things to Do in Salt Lake City Before You Die" and the co-author of the history, culture and urban legend guidebook "Secret Salt Lake."

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