The Inquirer

of President Reagan’s amnesty program and were awarded U.S. citizenship. Enacted in 1986, the Immigration Reform and Control Act granted amnesty to nearly 3 million illegal immigrants while at the same time cracking down on employers by criminalizing the act of knowingly hiring undocumented immigrants. In 1997, the couple opened Café Con Leche in Newtown Borough. In 2005, the café was booming, and the Luccis bought a second restaurant in hopes the extra funds would pay for their four children’s college tuitions. Patagonia Bar and Grill in Northampton’s Richboro section had seating for 200 and a liquor license. The couple mortgaged their home and invested all of their savings into the new restaurant. “It was a chaotic time in our lives, and I believe we were in over our heads,” said Silvia Lucci. When the economy crashed in 2008, so did the restaurant. In 2012, they closed the Northampton restaurant and declared bankruptcy. They still have the business in Newtown. Soon after came a letter from a university where their son, Facundo, was in his final year. Unless the Luccis paid a $30,000 tuition bill within the next three weeks, Facundo could not return to school. The same day she received the letter, the 52-year-old Silvia suffered what she later learned was a mild stroke. When the ambulance arrived, she refused to go to the hospital. The family did not have health insurance, and she feared they would be financially ruined. At home in Warminster, Silvia struggled with her mobility and failing health. Daniel decided to use his skills as a chef to h

COURIER TIMES

As immigrants to the United States, the Lucci family has learned that the American dream is more than just an opportunity to succeed. Silvia and Daniel Lucci have experienced both success and failure in the decades they’ve spent in the restaurant business. For them, the American dream is defined not just by that success, but also by the ability to fail and begin again. LUHV Vegan Bistro in Hatboro represents their attempt to begin again. There, the family is introducing customers to meatless and dairy-free cuisine that they say is hearty, healthy and packed with flavor, honed from their heritage in Argentina. Daniel and Silvia Lucci came to the U.S. with work visas in the 1980s. Daniel worked as a chef. Silvia, with a master’s degree in social development, worked as a teacher. Later, they applied for a green card and were told to return to Argentina and languish on what they say was a 23-year waiting list. They chose, instead, to stay in the U.S. illegally. “There’s no one person in this country who wants to be illegal, but the barriers are so big and there’s so many people (waiting for permanent residence),” Silvia Lucci said. Five years later, the Luccis became beneficiaries of President Reagan’s amnesty program and were awarded U.S. citizenship. Enacted in 1986, the Immigration Reform and Control Act granted amnesty to nearly 3 million illegal immigrants while at the same time cracking down on employers by criminalizing the act of knowingly hiring undocumented immigrants. In 1997, the couple opened Café Con Leche in Newtown Borough. In 2005, the café was booming, and the Luccis bought a second restaurant in hopes the extra funds would pay for their four children’s college tuitions. Patagonia Bar and Grill in Northampton’s Richboro section had seating for 200 and a liquor license. The couple mortgaged their home and invested all of their savings into the new restaurant. “It was a chaotic time in our lives, and I believe we were in over our heads,” said Silvia Lucci. When the economy crashed in 2008, so did the restaurant. In 2012, they closed the Northampton restaurant and declared bankruptcy. They still have the business in Newtown. Soon after came a letter from a university where their son, Facundo, was in his final year. Unless the Luccis paid a $30,000 tuition bill within the next three weeks, Facundo could not return to school. The same day she received the letter, the 52-year-old Silvia suffered what she later learned was a mild stroke. When the ambulance arrived, she refused to go to the hospital. The family did not have health insurance, and she feared they would be financially ruined. At home in Warminster, Silvia struggled with her mobility and failing health. Daniel decided to use his skills as a chef to help nurse her back to health. “He said, ‘From now on you’re just going to eat healing foods — foods that are good for you,’” recalled Silvia Lucci. Her health began to improve, she said, as she cut out all animal products from her diet. She had more energy, and a “sense of well-being.” For those who become vegans, it’s typically a process, said Facundo Lucci, who became a vegan two years ago. “You start feeling the goodness in your body and you start feeling goodness in your brain, and you just don’t want to go back,” he said. The most difficult part of becoming a vegan is losing the convenience of eating on the go, he said. “That’s why we are here,” he said, of LUHV Bistro. “There is no convenience for a vegan. That’s a big deterrent.” The Luccis hope LUHV (which stands for Lucci Ultra Healthy Vegan) Bistro will serve as a model for healthy fast food. On a weekday lunch hour, the Hatboro restaurant is filled with customers from all walks of life: a group of senior women, a family with young children, even U.S. servicemen from the Horsham Air Guard Station. The menu board changes daily with a variety of vegan burgers, salads and soups. Air Force Sgt. Patrick Salmon is a regular customer. He has kept to a vegetarian diet for the last 30 years. “I have been all over the world and the food here is amazing,” said Salmon. Since LUHV opened last year, business has been booming, the Luccis said. Next to the bistro is LUHV Factory, where they make and package vegan burger patties that are sold in 17 food stores across Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland and Virginia. “What we want is to mainstream veganism. You take the fear out of it,” said Silvia Lucci. As she’s regained her health, Silvia Lucci also has regained her faith in a bright future. “Maybe we are still the American dream. This is real. You fall down and America gives you the opportunity to get back up again.”

As immigrants to the United States, the Lucci family has learned that the American dream is more than just an opportunity to succeed. Silvia and Daniel Lucci have experienced both success and failure in the decades they’ve spent in the restaurant business. For them, the American dream is defined not just by that success, but also by the ability to fail and begin again. LUHV Vegan Bistro in Hatboro represents their attempt to begin again. There, the family is introducing customers to meatless and dairy-free cuisine that they say is hearty, healthy and packed with flavor, honed from their heritage in Argentina. Daniel and Silvia Lucci came to the U.S. with work visas in the 1980s. Daniel worked as a chef. Silvia, with a master’s degree in social development, worked as a teacher. Later, they applied for a green card and were told to return to Argentina and languish on what they say was a 23-year waiting list. They chose, instead, to stay in the U.S. illegally. “There’s no one person in this country who wants to be illegal, but the barriers are so big and there’s so many people (waiting for permanent residence),” Silvia Lucci said. Five years later, the Luccis became beneficiaries of President Reagan’s amnesty program and were awarded U.S. citizenship. Enacted in 1986, the Immigration Reform and Control Act granted amnesty to nearly 3 million illegal immigrants while at the same time cracking down on employers by criminalizing the act of knowingly hiring undocumented immigrants. In 1997, the couple opened Café Con Leche in Newtown Borough. In 2005, the café was booming, and the Luccis bought a second restaurant in hopes the extra funds would pay for their four children’s college tuitions. Patagonia Bar and Grill in Northampton’s Richboro section had seating for 200 and a liquor license. The couple mortgaged their home and invested all of their savings into the new restaurant. “It was a chaotic time in our lives, and I believe we were in over our heads,” said Silvia Lucci. When the economy crashed in 2008, so did the restaurant. In 2012, they closed the Northampton restaurant and declared bankruptcy. They still have the business in Newtown. Soon after came a letter from a university where their son, Facundo, was in his final year. Unless the Luccis paid a $30,000 tuition bill within the next three weeks, Facundo could not return to school. The same day she received the letter, the 52-year-old Silvia suffered what she later learned was a mild stroke. When the ambulance arrived, she refused to go to the hospital. The family did not have health insurance, and she feared they would be financially ruined. At home in Warminster, Silvia struggled with her mobility and failing health. Daniel decided to use his skills as a chef to help nurse her back to health. “He said, ‘From now on you’re just going to eat healing foods — foods that are good for you,’” recalled Silvia Lucci. Her health began to improve, she said, as she cut out all animal products from her diet. She had more energy, and a “sense of well-being.” For those who become vegans, it’s typically a process, said Facundo Lucci, who became a vegan two years ago. “You start feeling the goodness in your body and you start feeling goodness in your brain, and you just don’t want to go back,” he said. The most difficult part of becoming a vegan is losing the convenience of eating on the go, he said. “That’s why we are here,” he said, of LUHV Bistro. “There is no convenience for a vegan. That’s a big deterrent.” The Luccis hope LUHV (which stands for Lucci Ultra Healthy Vegan) Bistro will serve as a model for healthy fast food. On a weekday lunch hour, the Hatboro restaurant is filled with customers from all walks of life: a group of senior women, a family with young children, even U.S. servicemen from the Horsham Air Guard Station. The menu board changes daily with a variety of vegan burgers, salads and soups. Air Force Sgt. Patrick Salmon is a regular customer. He has kept to a vegetarian diet for the last 30 years. “I have been all over the world and the food here is amazing,” said Salmon. Since LUHV opened last year, business has been booming, the Luccis said. Next to the bistro is LUHV Factory, where they make and package vegan burger patties that are sold in 17 food stores across Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland and Virginia. “What we want is to mainstream veganism. You take the fear out of it,” said Silvia Lucci. As she’s regained her health, Silvia Lucci also has regained her faith in a bright future. “Maybe we are still the American dream. This is real. You fall down and America gives you the opportunity to get back up again.”