After showing you can have authentic-tasting Italian food without ever using ingredients such as cheese, beef, pork or even eggs at her West Hollywood restaurants, chef Tara Punzone has brought an all-star vegan menu to the South Bay.
Pura Vita, a plant-based Italian restaurant and wine bar expanded out of its West Hollywood home and opened a third restaurant in Redondo Beach in early February with a menu created by co-owner Punzone, who comes from a food-loving Italian family but has been a vegan since the age of 10.
“I turned vegan at a very young age, so I spent most of my adolescence trying to do what my parents do in the kitchen but do it without animal products. It’s been a work in progress for a very long time,” she said.
That work eventually led to her to partner with Redondo Beach couple Jay and Danielle Spangler to open two West Hollywood restaurants next door to each other; the pasta focused Pura Vita in 2018 and Pura Vita Pizzeria two years later, which features Neapolitan pizzas.
“The Redondo location is basically both combined, so it’s the greatest hits from both places,” Punzone said. “It’s the best selling things, the ones that make the most noise,” she said.
Here are some of the dishes at the new Redondo Beach Pura Vita.
Bastoncini di Mozzarella ($13): This is Punzone’s version of mozzarella sticks, except the cheese is made daily from cashews. “It’s clean, organic, nothing processed but very, very comforting nostalgic food. They’re gooey and stretchy and all the things cheese is supposed to be,” she said.
Black Magic ($23): One of the favorite pizzas here is the Black Magic, which is made with a black truffle cream sauce, pesto, mushrooms, vegan ricotta and mozzarella. “It’s just incredible. It’s super savory and umami flavors and the truffle cream is very, very rich. It’s probably the most popular pizza we have,” she said.
Carbonara Pasta ($21): This traditional Roman dish is normally made with egg, cheese and bacon. At Pura Vita, that’s replaced with what Punzone calls her “avocado egg” sauce. “You can’t see it, you wouldn’t know there’s avocado in it, but that’s the secret of the fattiness of the sauce,” she said. The “bacon” is made out of shiitake mushrooms that she described as sweet and savory.
Cesare Salad ($16): One of Punzone’s favorite dishes on the menu and something she said she eats daily, the salad is made with Tuscan kale, roasted garbanzo beans, lemon almond dressing, garlic croutons and Parmigiano made out of macadamia nuts. And the flavor profile of anchovies in the dressing is provided by seaweed.
Where: 320 S. Catalina Ave., Redondo Beach
Hours: 3-9 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday
Information: Call 424-304- 2247 or puravitalosangeles.com