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Chef and Former Restaurant Owner Arrested in East Bay Bank Robbery

He was formerly the chef of Ottavio and Rose Pistola

Melody R./Yelp

A former chef and restaurant owner was arrested last week on suspicion of armed robbery at an Orinda bank. The suspect, 54-year-old Valentino Luchin, was once executive chef at Rose Pistola in San Francisco, and then executive chef and owner of Ottavio in Walnut Creek, which closed in 2016 after six years in business, leaving him in dire financial straits.

Appearing to admit to the alleged crime in a jailhouse interview, Luchin told the Bay Area News Group that he “thought it was a good plan... but it was not.”

Luchin is being held at a Martinez detention facility in lieu of $100,000 bail. He has been charged with four counts of second-degree robbery, with four bank employees named as victims

The robbery took place at Citibank in Orinda, where about $18,000 was taken on Wednesday morning. “Through witness descriptions and surveillance video, the Orinda Police Department, assisted by Detectives from the Lafayette Police Department, were able to identify the suspect,” the contra Costa Sheriff’s office reported in a press release.

Court records obtained by the Bay Area News Group reveal the suspect was wearing black sunglasses, white gloves, and a black hooded sweater when he entered the bank, pointing what appeared to be a gun and demanding “large bills” from the teller before speeding off in a black Mercedes. A partial license plate read from surveillance video lead authorities to Luchin in Lafayette later that day. At his home, authorities say they recovered the money taken in the robbery, along with a semi-automatic BB gun apparently used in the alleged heist.

“My action wasn’t aggressive,” Luchin told the Bay Area News group. “It was a fake gun. I don’t even know how to load a real gun.” The chef tells the news service he wrote a letter of apology to the bank clerk.

Records show that Luchin, who came to the US from Italy in 1993, defaulted on a Chapter 13 bankruptcy plan payment in 2015, which is before Ottavio closed. He and his wife, with whom he ran the restaurant, owed more than $111,000, and their assets at the time were about $27,000.