Giovanna Mansi Lutfi takes the Lebanese Lira to Miami

Giovanna Mansi Lutfi takes the Lebanese Lira to Miami

Pillow designed by Rana Salam

As managing partner of WSH LLC and Tastings SoFlo LLC, a luxury catering and events company, Giovanna Mansi Lutfi has plenty of hospitality experience. Her latest concept, Lira Miami, pays homage to her Lebanese heritage. 

Lira offers a taste of traditional Lebanese cuisine in the heart of Miami. What made you decide to launch this concept in such a vibrant city?
Miami’s restaurant scene has grown significantly in recent years; you can now find pretty much every type of cuisine. Despite several Mediterranean options, there are just a few Lebanese ones; these are mainly full-service old-fashioned restaurants with belly-dancing shows and burgundy velvet sofas or takeaway stalls that offer sandwiches and tabbouleh straight from the fridge. Therefore, my partners and I decided to open Lira, a mid-scale casual-chic eatery in a very trendy neighborhood called Wynwood.
Clients are welcome to come for lunch or dinner, and we even offer a weekend buffet brunch. Our indoor seating area accommodates 35 guests, and there are two patios: the small one seats 55 guests and the large one is for bigger groups and private parties.

Did you slightly modify the cuisine to fit the palate and expectations of your locals customers?
The Miami crowd is an experienced one, so menu adjustments were not necessary.
Culinary speaking, I wanted to create an authentic, traditional experience. We only had to compromise in terms of limiting the amount of garlic in our dishes. Everything else is as a grandma would cook it.

Why did you choose the name Lira?
The idea for the project started in 2020, when I was back in Lebanon and the economic situation had hit rock bottom. During our meetings, my partners and I would reminisce about the good old days when Lebanon was the playground of the rich and famous. With the name Lira, we wanted to convey this sense of nostalgia. Coincidently, most of my business partners are either Lebanese or Italian, so Lira is also a way to embrace both countries.
My husband, Farid, whom I met in 1999 while studying Hospitality Management in Lausanne, and I are the managing partners of WHS LLC. Farid also co-owns his family’s restaurants back in Lebanon (Falafel Abou Andre). Two other partners own several restaurants in Miami and in Mexico. Another owns a global luxury concierge company, while our other partners prefer to remain silent.

Your restaurant not only promotes traditional Lebanese cuisine but also the work of Lebanese artists. What can you tell us about this?
Lira is located in Wynwood, a very artsy neighborhood in Miami. It is the hub of street artists from all over the world. There are numerous art galleries as well as restaurants, bars, and cool shops. It thus made sense for us embrace art and, in our case, Lebanese art in its many forms. We started off by commissioning the queen of pop art Rana Salam with the logo and brand book. We also have prints and pillows from her online store. There is a big and beautiful outdoor graffiti of Beirut done by illustrator Maria Theresa Kallassy and many prints by Adra, Yasmina Keyrouz and other talented artists. Some of our copper table tops are made by artisans in Qalamoun. We also have cake stands by Nada Debs and “brik” by Lebanese  Glass that’s made out of recycled glass from the Beirut Port blast. Our aim is to be as Lebanese as possible in everything we do, and our wish is to give visibility to these artists and many others too.

Do you have any expansion plans?
We are now fully dedicated to making Lira a destination for locals and tourists, but I can’t deny that we are also thinking about the possibility of replicating it in other major cities across the U.S. In the land of restaurant groups an chain, there are not many Lebanese concepts.

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About author

Rita Ghantous

Rita Ghantous is a hospitality aficionado and a passionate writer with over 9 years’ experience in journalism and 5 years experience in the hospitality sector. Her passion for the performance arts and writing, started early. At 10 years old she was praised for her solo performance of the Beatles song “All My Love” accompanied by a guitarist, and was approached by a French talent scout during her school play. However, her love for writing was stronger. Fresh out of school, she became a freelance journalist for Noun Magazine and was awarded the Silver Award Cup for Outstanding Poetry, by The International Library of Poetry (Washington DC). She studied Business Management and earned a Masters degree from Saint Joseph University (USJ), her thesis was published in the Proche-Orient, Études en Management book. She then pursued a career in the hospitality industry but didn’t give up writing, that is why she launched the Four Points by Sheraton Le Verdun Newsletter. Her love for the industry and journalism led her to Hospitality Services - the organizers of the HORECA trade show in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Jordan, as well as Salon Du Chocolat, Beirut Cooking Festival, Whisky Live and other regional shows. She is currently the Publications Executive of Hospitality News Middle East, Taste & Flavors and Lebanon Traveler. It is with ultimate devotion for her magazines that she demonstrates her hospitality savoir-faire.

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