ENCINITAS — Cardiff’s iconic Besta-Wan Pizza House is mourning the sudden loss of beloved longtime chef Luis Lugo, whose culinary creations have drawn in customers for almost two decades.
Lugo, affectionately called Primo, has spent nearly 20 years throwing pies and crafting countless other dishes at the old-school pizzeria through several changes in ownership. The announcement of his death last week came as a shock to his coworkers, some of whom had worked with him for several years.
“It is with profound sadness that we announce the sudden passing of Chef Primo,” the pizzeria said via Instagram on Dec. 29. “If you went to Besta Wan in the past twenty years, you may not have known it, but he was part of your experience.”
Lugo, 59, resided in Oceanside and is survived by his wife and three children. While the cause of his unexpected passing has not been shared publicly, he was said to be active and in good health.
His family has started a GoFundMe to help raise money for funeral expenses.
“Luis was a pillar of strength for our family, and his memory will forever live on in the hearts of those who knew him,” his family said on the GoFundMe page.
Longtime Besta-Wan customers and former employees shared their sadness about Lugo’s passing online, recalling his kindness and amazing service. Lugo’s daughter, Alondra, said on social media that Besta-Wan was her father’s “second home and family.”
Eric Bauer, who took over Besta-Wan with his wife KC in mid-2023, said Lugo was a staple in the community, known for his kindness, hardworking nature and generosity.
“He always had a smile on and really was the backbone of Besta-Wan, so it was shocking, to say the least,” Bauer said. “He was just a really nice, down-to-earth, gentle person.”
An in-person fundraiser will take place at Besta-Wan on Jan. 10 from 4 to 8:30 p.m. The restaurant will serve Lugo’s favorite pizza and beer to raise money to support his family, according to Bauer.