How Tara Punzone created a vegan Italian empire with Pura Vita


Pura Vita is authentic and from-the-heart Italian cooking via and through. Owned and operated by chef Tara Punzone, Pura Vita boasts an eclectic menu of typical Italian staples that have no animal products in anyway, but in its place are created with the freshest elements in elevated style. Standout dishes consist of a pasta carbonara that has right away become a crowd most loved, do-it-yourself meatballs and handcrafted wood-fired pizza.

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Punzone, who has been a vegan due to the fact she was 12 many years outdated, has managed to marry her motivation to cleanse, ethical eating with her appreciation of her Italian heritage and tradition. The consequence is a restaurant idea that now characteristics a few places in Southern California. Punzone is adamant about curating a excellent company that goes outside of just the food items, and with that remaining explained, she is associated in every single element of the operations to make certain that when you appear to Pura Vita, it will be an unforgettable working experience. 

The pursuing interview is from the A single Daily life A single Prospect podcast hosted by H2O frontman and outspoken champion of veganism Toby Morse

You went vegan when you had been 11 or 12 decades outdated, proper? 

I turned vegetarian when I was 10, by my option. It took me a number of a long time to figure out the vegan part, which happened when I was 12 or so. When I was a little, I was that child that would hold up the meat to the light and say, “Ma, you can see the veins in it. How can you consume that?” I was a big animal lover and by no means ate everything on a bone. When you’re a child, you really do not place together the method of a residing, respiration animal that out of the blue is on your plate and doesn’t look like how it is, so you dissociate every thing you are eating with fact.

In fifth grade, I experienced a instructor that showed the course a video of a slaughterhouse, which I feel was the coolest thing at any time, and she almost certainly would have been fired if it was now, but she modified my existence. I went home and sat my moms and dads down and told them I didn’t want to have everything to do with this. My mom and dad were bewildered, but they desired to assistance me irrespective. Every thing in my family members revolved around food stuff. Everyone cooked, and my grandfather owned a sandwich store in Brooklyn that was so preferred that he had to employ the service of safety. That is portion of the reason why I required to commence cooking since I believed he was the coolest dude on Earth. 

Did you start cooking at a young age too? 

My mom and dad, in buy to help me, wished me to be in the kitchen with them, and which is wherever I started out finding out about food items. I would enable them with tiny issues, and a little something comes about in a kitchen area when cooking along with people today, and there’s this electricity that is just the coolest factor. 

When did you start off working at places to eat? 

I did not begin functioning in dining establishments until finally a minor little bit late. I had a profession in pictures, and I hated it. I wasn’t linked to it at all. I usually understood I needed to open up a restaurant, but I experienced no expertise, so I would have to start from the base. I graduated from the School of Visible Arts and obtained my master’s diploma to train and then went to go do the job in a prep kitchen area. [Laughs.]

I started all about once more at least wage at the bottom. I labored under chef Neal Harden at Pure Food and Wine in New York, and he taught me the administration section of doing work in kitchens so that when he would depart, I would at some point choose his spot. I finally felt like I identified the location in which I belong. I really swiftly moved up to a line cook and sous chef, and then in a few of years, I was working the restaurant as the chef. 

What year did you transfer to LA? 

I started imagining about relocating here in 2010. My landlord at the time was vegan and experienced this lumberyard and had the thought of us opening up a vegan restaurant in New York. We obtained the blueprints, drew up a whole program, worked on a menu and the town accredited it but reported it would take 5 decades to get the permits simply because it was constructed previously mentioned a subway line. I resolved I would it’s possible go to LA for a even though and then occur again, but I by no means ended up coming again. [Laughs.] I ended up doing work at Genuine Food Day-to-day, which was a great practical experience to study a good deal of issues.

When did you start out opening Pura Vita?

I bought really relaxed functioning at Authentic Foods Daily, but I obtained cozy and required to encounter a new challenge and finally do the factor that I required to do my whole lifetime. We did everything ourselves, me and my partners with our personal arms opening the restaurant. We couldn’t afford to pay for a marketing and advertising organization, so we utilized social media to market the cafe. 

1 issue about the vegan group is that when some thing is new, we get hyped on it, and it’s a great deal of word of mouth, in particular when it’s a vegan Italian cafe. Do you consider it is a supportive community? 

It was thoroughly scary on our opening weekend, and we experienced no strategy what to anticipate. I’m not some renowned chef from Tv, but I definitely necessarily mean it and live this just about every day, way ahead of it was trendy. We did a close friends and relatives evening on a Thursday and opened to the general public on Friday for supper, and there was a line, two blocks extended with a two-hour wait around to sit down. I in no way in my wildest creativity believed this would occur in my life.

I enjoy that there is the previous-college Italian Brooklyn matter with your eating places, and you also do not fuck with the faux meat detail, ideal? 

I’m not into pretend meat. We have meatballs that are made in-property, but they’re built out of lentils and mushrooms. I do not do the packaged things. I want all the ingredients to be clean and basically plant-centered.

We have talked about why there isn’t a Pura Vita the place you grew up in New York, but I get it. You want to be all around to see it.

For me, the restaurant is a really personal factor. It’s the foodstuff from my tradition and upbringing. Aspect of acquiring a restaurant is not just the food items it’s the encounter. It is about tunes, persons and looking at some others have an experience with all of the features, not just the food stuff. If I was not there bodily and if opened one in New York, how would I make sure that it r
epresents all of the items that are equally critical to the encounter?

[Photo by Naz Massaro]

[Photo by Naz Massaro]

[Photo by Naz Massaro]

[Photo by Naz Massaro]

[Photo by Naz Massaro]

[Photo by Naz Massaro]

[Photo by Naz Massaro]

[Photo by Naz Massaro]

This tale appeared in problem #407, accessible below.


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