Meet Kelly Knudson, the president of daVinci’s Restaurants (davincis.com).
Tell us a little about your business. – For 44 years, we have been a family owned and operated restaurant chain. Our first location was Pontillo’s in 1978; then we changed the name to daVinci’s as we expanded. We currently have five Lincoln locations delivering and serving pizza, pasta, hot hoagies, cheese steaks, and more.
How did you get started in the business? – In 1977, Kal Knudson, my father and an ordained minister, along with my mother Darlene, decided they needed something to bring their family of eight together and give them a common goal. They called their kids and asked them all to come home and help set up a family business. To turn this dream into a reality, Kal took a leave of absence from his church, Darlene gave up her teaching career, and their children moved back home. After intense restaurant training, the family opened their first restaurant, which was the beginning of a growing family restaurant business.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced professionally? – Owning and operating a restaurant during a pandemic.
What has been your most important achievement professionally? – Operating a family-owned business for over 40 years and supporting the restaurant industry by being on the Nebraska Restaurant Association Board of Directors since 1992. I also served as president twice during that time.
Tell us a little about your family. – I have two beautiful and smart daughters. My oldest daughter just graduated from law school with honors. My youngest daughter is in her second year at UNL and wants to be a counselor.
What is your favorite thing to do on a day off? – Be by the water.
What is the most unique or interesting thing about you that most people probably don’t know? – I had the opportunity to go on the USS Nebraska Nuclear Submarine.
Who inspires you? – My mom and dad.
What is your favorite quote or the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? – My dad told me: “You have two ears and one mouth, use them in that proportion.” If you could choose only one descriptive word to be remembered as, what would it be? – Father.
If you could have a super power, what would it be? – I’d like to read peoples’ minds.
What local nonprofit organization(s) are you passionate about or involved with, and are there any special reasons why? – The People’s City Mission because of all they do for our community, and because it was a passion of my parents to support them and to give back to the community that has supported us for so long. I want to continue giving back by serving our free Easter dinner in 2023. For 36 years, daVinci’s has held a free Easter dinner at our 11th and G Street location for those who may be alone or low-income. Unfortunately, we have been unable to continue that tradition the last couple of years because of the pandemic. We are very happy to start planning our free Easter dinner once again for Easter Sunday 2023.
What is your favorite movie? – Roadhouse or any action movie. What is your favorite local restaurant? – daVinci’s.