A Jewish Culinary Legend Reborn: Fania Lewando’s Vilnius

Lewando Fania2
by Jūratė Važgauskaitė Šaltinis, manoteises.lt

If you happened to be walking on Vokiečių street in Vilnius eighty years ago, you would surely have noticed the sign for the Dieto-Yarska Yadlodaynia restaurant, and if you stepped inside you would probably have bumped into Marc Chagall, the famous artist, as well as discovering good food. The vegetarian restaurant beloved of connoisseurs belonged to Faina Lewando-Fiszelewicz aand her husband Lazar Lewando. These members of the Vilnius Jewish community established their Dieto-Yarska Yadlodaynia (“Dietary/Vegetarian Cafeteria”) in the building that was marked no. 14 on Vokiečių street then and created a food revolution in Vilnius at that time, then called Wilno.

A vegetarian restaurant in the 1930s was a big sensation. Although vegetarian dishes were nothing new in the Jewish culinary traditions of Eastern Europe, they were often eaten by solitary diners or if no other kosher food choice was available. A vegetarian restaurant was extraordinary.

Ashkenazi food traditions, named after the word for Jews living in Eastern and Northern Europe, dominated the city and entire region when Faina Lewando opened her vegetarian restaurant and a culinary school right next to it in Vilnius. These traditions made much use of meat products and fat and heart meat dishes for holidays and to warm up during winter, without which the Jewish dinner table was inconceivable. It was to be expected that a luxury vegetarian restaurant in interwar Vilnius would create so much wonder and interest among the public.

Full story in Lithuanian here.