The Story Behind One Of The Most Famous Restaurants That Graced Beirut

blog/ nevermindthehummus

There in Beirut, in Phoenicia street behind the seafront, an old and rusted signage still stands against all odds to claim its place in the memories of those who had lived the golden age of the Lebanese capital.

That abandoned place is one of the most nostalgic ruins in Beirut, once a glorious Italian restaurant that hosted the elite: The Quo Vadis.

The name, which means “Where are you going?” was the title of an old film about the Roman Empire, not that it reflected Lebanon’s status at the time. Beirut wasn’t going anywhere. It was at its peak.

Tarek Chemaly

The Quo Vadis was one the most elegant restaurants in Lebanon, hosting the Lebanese elite of the social and political scenes, as well as diplomats and local and regional celebrities. It was a hub for refined Italian cuisine and hospitality, managed by a lady called Anna Banzato.

Up to the 1980s when it had to close down, Quo Vadis reigns in Beirut’s most famous hotel district that boasted back then the wildest Beirut nightlife and dining scene.

The place served several specialties like a pasta dish called Gigetto, a version of carbonara.

In an archived article (late 1975) of Aramco World Magazine, a Texas subsidiary of Saudi Aramco, the writer Donald Aspinwall Allan wrote under the title “This Was Beirut” that “The best food in Beirut, of course, is Lebanese.”

He also cited that Italian restaurants in Beirut “rank among the city’s finest.”

He mentioned Quo Vadis in particular, saying that “Quo Vadis on Phoenicia Street imports its beef, veal, and clams for Vongole sauce and uses Italian pasta for its Fettucine al Alfredo and other delights.”

Like many things in Beirut that have changed or disappeared, Quo Vadis is still one of the most prominent in the minds of people who experienced the golden age of Lebanon.

This nostalgic side of Beirut will always be present, even as a ruin, to keep Beirut’s old scene alive amid the ruins of time.