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Latin King: Una Tradizione Italiana


The Latin King restaurant was founded in 1947 by Rose and Jim Pigneri, who immigrated from Terravecchia, Italy to Des Moines. Rose and Jim wanted to bring authentic Italian fare to Des Moines and began this undertaking in earnest upon selling their home to finance the Latin King restaurant lease, which had previously operated as the Cinderella Sandwich Shop (circa 1930) and the Chanticleer Restaurant (circa 1937). Pigneri named the Latin King after New York City’s Latin Quarter and operated the Latin King for 35 years, notably taking only 10 days of vacation time during his tenure. Pigneri sold the Latin King to his third cousin Bob Tursi in 1983. 

Under Bob Tursi’s 38 years of management, the Latin King developed menu offerings and underwent two significant construction projects, including the buildout of the current entry vestibule, the temperature-controlled wine cellar, and main dining room. It was in the 1990s and 2000s that Latin King grew into a household name and dining icon in Des Moines. Such scratch dishes as the Chicken Spiedini, Steak Deburgo and Tiramisu, and the Latin King tomato garden with over 100 annual tomato plantings, were developed during this time. Tursi improved the Latin King, and after successfully battling cancer, decided it time to sell to Whitney VinZant in May of 2021. Of the sale, Tursi said, “They are forever looking for better ways to make sure the guest experience is great. They are going to keep the diamond polished.”