Antonia Lofaso's Favorite Meal Of 2023

As you can imagine, celebrity chef Antonia Lofaso dines out quite a bit. The owner of Los Angeles eateries Black Market Liquor Bar, Scopa Italian Roots, and DAMA, Lofaso made her name on the cooking competition show "Top Chef" and continues to be a popular presence in food media. Tasting Table recently got the chance to speak with her and Brooke Williamson at the New York City Wine & Food Festival's "Sip & Savor" event and wanted to know from someone as culinarily well-traveled as Lofaso, what struck her as a truly outstanding meal she's had in the past year. 

"You know what, actually I keep saying that my most memorable meal was at Zahav, it's Michael Solomonov," Lofaso explained. "It was outstanding, that was probably the most interesting ... he pulled out like a 45-day dry-aged veal that he was curing and it was unbelievable."

Located in Philadelphia, Zahav transports the culturally diverse flavors of Israel to the "City of Brotherly Love." Chef Michael Solomonov pulls from the Mediterranean-meets-Middle Eastern culinary canon of his birth country, offering guests such dishes as laffa bread, brisket kebabs, and his signature pomegranate lamb shoulder.

Innovative Israeli cuisine at Zahav

Solomonov didn't set out to introduce diners in the U.S. to the flavors of Israel. The chef, who was raised in Pittsburgh and had his first culinary job as a baker in Israel, cooked in Italian restaurants and once helmed the kitchen of a Mexican restaurant. But after the death of his brother, an Israeli Defense Force soldier, Solomonov decided to focus his efforts on spreading Israeli cuisine and culture.

He opened Zahav with his partner, businessman Steve Cook, in 2008 as both a tribute to his brother's memory and a showcase for flavors that many American diners may only have a passing knowledge of. Outside of Zahav, Solomonov has a plethora of restaurants across Philadelphia and the Atlantic Seaboard, including the donut and fried chicken mini-chain Federal Donuts, two falafel shops, and four restaurants specializing in hummus that span from New York City to Miami.

By pushing boundaries while being mindful of tradition, it is easy to see why the food of Solomonov and his team at Zahav would be at the top of a chef like Lofaso's list of top meals of the year. "It's amazing seeing that food in restaurants in a way that you would go have Latin food or Italian food or French food," she added.