Admitted felon and former vegan It girl Sarma Melngailis says she’ll bring back Pure Food and Wine if the opportunity comes up — even though she was sent to jail for stealing $1 million from the now-shuttered restaurant.
“I think New York would take me back,” Melngailis tells the Post in a recent article that chronicles an affair with her former lawyer Jeffrey Lichtman, who represented her in court and is now representing Mexican drug lord El Chapo.
It’s just the latest development in a long saga of tabloid fodder from Melngailis, who rose to prominence for attracting celebrities like Alec Baldwin to raw food restaurant Pure Food and Wine before going on the lam.
Melngailis’s relationship with the married lawyer was exposed earlier this month when a series of dirty text messages between them were made public, though she tells the Post that the relationship was consensual and the two remain friends.
The maligned celebrity restaurateur became intimate with Lichtman soon after he took on her case in February 2017. At the time, Melngailis faced up to 15 years behind bars for stealing from from Pure Food and Wine and spending it on luxury watches, hotel rooms, and at casinos with her ex-husband Anthony Strangis.
Among other wild details, Melngailis claims in the article that she once hooked up with and got an STI from comedian Louis C.K., who has admitted to accounts of sexual misconduct. She also says she broke her vows to veganism to eat chicken at Rikers and that she was regarded as a sort of food critic among the other inmates, who relied on her opinion when a veggie burger appeared on the menu.
She and Strangis were ultimately arrested and charged with stealing $800,000 from four different investors, not paying employees more than $40,000, and avoiding more than $400,000 in sales tax. At the time of the arrest, the duo were found after ordering a very un-vegan Domino’s pizza — though the raw food guru claims the pizza wasn’t for her.
In 2017, Melngailis pleaded guilty to stealing $1 million, scoring a deal of five years probation following four months in prison on Rikers Island.
Pure Food and Wine opened in 2004 in Gramercy as one of the city’s first raw food restaurants. Once a favorite of celebrities, the restaurant closed in 2015 following a series of unpaid wage lawsuits that resulted in staff walk-outs and protests. Former employees initially planned to reopen the restaurant without her, but they ultimately moved on.
But Melngailis still believes NYC would take her back, telling the Post, “if there was some magical opportunity to open the same restaurant in the same place, I would do it in a heartbeat.”