Pure Food & Wine, with its raw-vegan menu, celebrity clientele, and oceans of press, was once a fabulous place to irritate your server with a Groupon that cut those salads’ hefty price tags by 30 percent. Its owner, restaurateur Sarma Melngailis, was a living advertisement for her business, all shiny hair and glowing skin and the confidence born of being perfectly nourished at all times. Instead of going full Gwyneth, however, Melngailis met scamster Anthony Strangis, secretly married him, and allegedly started embezzling funds from her business — almost $2 million over two years, before the couple disappeared in mid-2015. They were finally caught in May of this year hiding out in a Tennessee motel, when Strangis brilliantly used his actual name to order Domino’s pizza. The pair have since been extradited to New York and charged with multiple counts of grand larceny and tax fraud. Former Pure Food employees who went without pay during multiple periods in 2014 and 2015 seem pretty thrilled that their scofflaw former employer has been brought to justice, and though she claims she wasn’t the one who ordered the pizza, Melngailis must rue the day she ever got involved with the omnivorous scoundrel.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 19, 2016