Go to the main content Menu
Back
Tara Punzone
Photo courtesy of Heidi Calvert
Food & Drink Los Angeles
Allie Mitchell Allie Mitchell Allie Mitchell

Tara Punzone of LA’s Pura Vita Is Paving the Way for Vegan Female Chefs

This plant-based queen is making some of the best vegan Italian food in the US!

Since opening in the fall of 2018, Pura Vita has attracted people near and far with its diverse and authentic plant-based Italian menu. Ask any vegan on the West Coast about their top restaurants, and chances are, Pura Vita will be one of the first names mentioned. From the immersive venues, impeccable service, and mind-blowing dishes, Pura Vita is one of the best vegan restaurants in Los Angeles—all thanks to the inspiring and talented vegan female chef Tara Punzone.

Chef Tara Punzone

Since she was a child, Chef Tara Punzone knew she would open a vegan Italian restaurant. She was first inspired by her grandparents, who owned a popular Italian sandwich shop in Brooklyn called Punzone’s Heros. “There are so many incredible memories and stories from this little market. I idolized my grandpa for this reason. I wanted to be like him. I wanted to bring people together and make them happy and create a space that would be talked about in the community,” shared Punzone. After transitioning to a vegan lifestyle at age 12, Punzone told her dad she was going to open a vegan Italian restaurant—and years later, she did just that.

Tara Punzone

Photo courtesy of Heidi Calvert

First Vegan Italian Restaurant and Wine Bar

Punzone worked as a chef at other restaurants for many years before she found the perfect spot in West Hollywood to open her own restaurant. In September of 2018, she opened the very first vegan Italian restaurant and wine bar, Pura Vita. The name translates to “pure life,” which is the same as “pura vida” in Spanish. Punzone told VegOut, “I fell in love with Costa Rica over 20 years ago, and I got “pura vida” tattooed on my wrists. When we were working on the restaurant opening, I was unsure of which name I wanted. My business partner was like, ‘You already have the name of the restaurant tattooed on your arms!’ It hit me that I could simply change one letter to make it Italian! However, when we were first opening, EVERYONE thought it was a Costa Rican restaurant, so there was a lot of explaining to do!”

Pura Vita

Photo courtesy of Pura Vita

The Menu at Pura Vita

Pura Vita gives off New York Italian restaurant vibes, which makes perfect sense as Punzone is an Italian-American who grew up in Brooklyn. The menu at Pura Vita features fresh-made pasta, Neapolitan-style pizza, vegetables, salads, calzones, and other classic Italian dishes, all made from locally sourced organic vegan ingredients. There are plenty of gluten-free options, which are typically hard to come by in Italian cuisine.

Pura Vita

Photo courtesy of Pura Vita

Pura Vita’s most popular dish has to be their vegan carbonara made of spaghetti in an avocado egg and macadamia romano cream with shiitake bacon on top. We asked Punzone what inspired that menu item, and she said, “[It] came to me in my dreams. Literally. I dreamt that I was making carbonara, and I could see and smell all the ingredients. The next day I was telling my sous chef about the dream, and he was like, ‘Let’s try it!’ We made it according to my dream and ran it as a special, and it has been the biggest-selling dish on the menu ever since!”

Due to the overwhelming success of her first location and menu, Punzone has since expanded to two other brick-and-mortar locations with slightly different offerings. In May of 2020, Pura Vita Pizzeria opened next door to the original West Hollywood location, and in February of 2021, another Pura Vita opened in Redondo Beach. When asked about her future plans, Punzone teased a vegan cookbook and a Pura Vita location in Costa Rica one day.

Pura Vita

Photo courtesy of Pura Vita

Vegan Women-Owned Businesses in LA

Even though Chef Tara Punzone has gained much attention in the culinary world, she had to work extremely hard to get where she is today. “Most of my career, I have been the only woman in the kitchen. As a woman, you must be even more strong than the strongest guy in the kitchen. I don’t mean muscles, I mean mental strength. So many women come to work in kitchens and then leave shortly after—when they realize how unbalanced it can be. You must be confident. You must know your worth. Otherwise, you will not have fun in the process,” Punzone stated.

In honor of Women’s History Month, Punzone would like to shout out the following vegan women-owned businesses in LA: L.O.V.E., Vegan Exchange/Vegan Street Fair, Satdha, Yoga-urt, Just What I Kneaded, and Kale My Name LA.

Allie Mitchell

@alliemitch

When Allie responded to an Instagram post on @vegoutlosangeles a few years ago, she had no idea she’d join the coolest vegan team on the planet. An Austin native, actress, yogi, and part-time sword fighter (don’t ask!), Allie is on a mission to live her best life and inspire others to do the same. She graduated from Hussian College In Studio with a B.F.A. in Contemporary Musical Theatre + Film and currently acts, writes, and eats her way through Los Angeles.

Must-have products: MUSH Overnight Oats, Califia Farms Creamer, HURRAW! Lip Balm, Facial Lounge Feather-Light Miracle Moisturizer

Articles by Allie
Allie Mitchell

More from VegOut

See the article the best vegan restaurants in florida

The Best Vegan Restaurants in Florida

From the Panhandle to the big city, Florida is a hot spot for plant-based eats.

Allison van Tilborgh Allison van Tilborgh
Love Life Cafe
Food & Drink
See the article 10 best vegan restaurants for a date night in la

10 Best Vegan Restaurants for a Date Night in LA

There are only green flags at these vegan eateries!

Allie Mitchell Allie Mitchell
Avant Garden Bistro
Food & Drink
See the article vegan baked goods that ship nationwide for the holidays

Vegan Baked Goods That Ship Nationwide for the Holidays

From Hanukkah bundt cakes and Christmas cookies to gingerbread house kits, this list covers it all!

Allie Mitchell Allie Mitchell
Dear Bella Creamery
Food & Drink
See the article our 5 secret ingredients for vegan holiday cooking

Our 5 Secret Ingredients for Vegan Holiday Cooking

Add these products to your plant-based recipes this holiday season!

Anja Grommons Anja Grommons
Bragg
Sponsored Food & Drink
See the article prados beauty celebrates indigenous beauty and resilience

Prados Beauty Celebrates Indigenous Beauty and Resilience

Founder Cece Meadows puts Indigenous voices at the forefront of the beauty industry.

Alejandra Tolley Alejandra Tolley
Prados Beauty
Fashion & Beauty
See the article 8 vegan sweaters to keep you warm this winter

8 Vegan Sweaters to Keep You Warm This Winter

We’re staying warm this season with these vegan styles!

Tammie Ortlieb Tammie Ortlieb
Will's Vegan Store
Fashion & Beauty
See the article 10 vegan chocolate chip brands perfect for baking

10 Vegan Chocolate Chip Brands Perfect for Baking

These dairy-free chocolate chips were made for cookies, waffles, muffins, and more.

Anja Grommons Anja Grommons
Pascha Chocolate
Food & Drink
See the article 12 vegan beauty gifts to shop this holiday season

12 Vegan Beauty Gifts to Shop This Holiday Season

Deck the halls with boughs of vegan beauty gifts!

Alejandra Tolley Alejandra Tolley
Fleur & Bee
Fashion & Beauty
See the article sustainably and carefully sourced ingredients set this native american-owned vegan bakery apart

Sustainably and Carefully Sourced Ingredients Set This Native American-Owned Vegan Bakery Apart

Place an order from Wholesome Bakery in honor of Native American Heritage Month!

Allie Mitchell Allie Mitchell
Wholesome Bakery
Food & Drink
See the article 8 vegan bakeries in los angeles

8 Vegan Bakeries in Los Angeles

Stock up for the holidays at these sweet stops!

Allie Mitchell Allie Mitchell
Just What I Kneaded
Food & Drink Los Angeles
See the article 11 best cruelty-free, vegan laundry detergents

11 Best Cruelty-Free, Vegan Laundry Detergents

Elevate your laundry day with these plant-based brands.

Tammie Ortlieb Tammie Ortlieb
Seventh Generation
Shopping
See the article pomona’s first all-vegetarian spot borreguitas serves traditional mexican dishes

Pomona’s First All-Vegetarian Spot Borreguitas Serves Traditional Mexican Dishes

This powerful story highlights how the Torres family turned their 15-year-old restaurant into Pomona’s first vegetarian spot!

Alejandra Tolley Alejandra Tolley
Borreguitas
Food & Drink Los Angeles

Newsletter

We’ll keep you updated on new information,
upcoming events, and the best deals in your area.

By signing up you agree to receive emails from VegOut Magazine
and accept our terms of use, privacy policy, and cookie policy.

Subscribe Now

Get the latest in plant-based news, entertainment, and lifestyle delivered straight to your door (or inbox!)
Order the magazine!

Navigation

Subscribe Now

Order the magazine!
Close

Filters

Cities

The Most

Writer

Test

Test 2

ddd