Pittsburgh chefs Jamilka Borges and Dianne DeStefano are finally branching out on their own.
After over a decade of working together on and off throughout the Pittsburgh food industry — including stints at Bar Marco, The Independent Brewing Company, Lorelei, and Hidden Harbor — the two women are set to open coastal cuisine restaurant Lilith the second week of September in the former Cafe Zinho space in Shadyside.
“We want to be able to control the food, the ambiance, and every aspect of the restaurant,” Borges explains to TABLE Magazine, “something that, working for other people, we’ve never been able to do.”
The (Wo)Man, The Myth, The Legend
According to folklore, Lilith was Adam’s first wife. Believing she was created equal to the famous first male of Genesis, Lilith did not want to be subservient to him. Adam disagreed with this belief, so Lilith decided to leave the Garden of Eden. After Lilith’s departure, God created Eve from Adam’s rib, with the implication that Eve was less than her husband.
“Some people believe that [Lilith] was in the original text of the Bible and later taken out,” DeStefano says. “Whatever you decide to believe, we find it to be inspiring. We’ve worked a lot for male owners and chefs in our career, and Lilith is the OG badass female.”
Borges and DeStefano’s restaurant will feature a menu of bold food options inspired by the pair’s Puerto Rican and Sicilian backgrounds, respectively. Hospitality, another tradition they draw from their families, drives how Borges and DeStefano’s vision of how to serve guests. Their intention is to bring back pre-COVID restaurant service.
“So no QR codes, more detailed service, more relaxing experience,” DeStefano says. “Something got lost over COVID. So much of dining now is about efficiency, getting in and out. We don’t want that; we want people to feel like they’re being treated. We believe in hospitality as an art form.”
With a kitchen staff of five women and one guy — a rarity in the restaurant world — local ingredients will drive a seasonally changing menu. And DeStefano’s longstanding pastry chef experience means guests can expect an excellent pastry and bread selection.
“We’ve done a lot for the Pittsburgh food industry over the years, and we should take pride in that,” Borges says. “Women are usually programmed to be more shy about things. We are looking to utilize the space as a way to pay it forward to the next generation of female chefs and cooks.”