Vegan Deli at RTM Receives Kosher Certification

(Photo provided)

It’s been a long time in coming, but the Reading Terminal Market now has a kosher merchant, as LUHV Vegan Deli received its kosher certification from the International Kosher Council on Nov. 11, owner Facundo Lucci said.

The deli began in September 2017 as a vegan, organic, gluten-free day cart at the market run by Lucci, son of LUHV founders Daniel and Silvia Lucci, and they were so successful that that acquired a permanent location that launched Sept. 7.

But the story of LUHV Vegan Deli — which offers a variety of veggie burgers, sandwiches, vegan “cheeses” and “meats,” vegan “tuna” salad and soups — actually began eight years ago.

Daniel and Silvia Lucci, immigrants from Argentina, had been in the restaurant business in the Philadelphia suburbs for decades. Daniel Lucci had been a chef for 35 years and eight years ago decided to become a vegan. Around the same time, Silvia Lucci had some severe health problems, suffered a stroke and she, too, changed her diet. The Lucci family credits Daniel Lucci’s “energy soup” with restoring his wife’s health.

Facundo Lucci describes his journey toward veganism.

“Dad made a decision to eat better. He is the mastermind behind this whole venture. He nursed Mom back to health with his energy soup, which is filled with superfoods and plant-based proteins. I became a vegan, and it’s the same story you hear from everyone,” he said. “I lost 30 pounds in the first year, experienced a new mental clarity, increased focus, renewed energy, which motivated me toward healthier habits like exercising more. I am also finding an increased empathy and compassion, which seems to come from not harming any fellow creatures to produce food. I’m still kind of figuring it out.”

When asked about the kosher certification, Facundo Lucci is clear.

“We are not Jewish, but we listen to our customers. We heard over and over that people who kept kosher at home were able to enjoy our food. We learned that we were already there in terms of what we serve, all that was required was the rabbi’s supervision and certification,” he said. “We had to make a few very small modifications — changing red wine and balsamic vinegar to apple cider vinegar — it had to do with the sourcing of the ingredients. We used the International Kosher Council because they worked with other vegan restaurants in town to gain their kosher certifications.”

The restaurant’s LUHV name is an acronym: LU for Lucci, H for healthy and V for vegan. The fact that it sounds like “love” is a happy accident for Philadelphia.

“We wanted something that reflected our beliefs, that had an authentic brand and that was easy and memorable,” Facundo Lucci said.

The business began as a food manufacturer, selling primarily at farmers markets. The collaborative nature of those venues established LUHV as a business that embraces a culture of community and cooperation, Lucci said.

“The opportunity at Reading Terminal arose, and we just slid right in. It was a natural fit because of the way we have run the business since we began,” he said.

In addition to the store at Reading Terminal, LUHV supplies places like Mom’s Organic Market, Whole Foods, Weaver’s Way Co Op and many others from Virginia to New Jersey.

Keri White is a freelance writer and a Jewish Exponent food columnist.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here