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15 Photos: Capturing all the verve inside Bay Shore’s new eatery Zest

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Chef Michael Liebman says it’s difficult to explain how he comes up with his food creations. 

Sometimes, a light bulb just lights up in his head at 3 a.m., his girlfriend Michelle Perrotta said. 

Liebman’s motto is to live life with zest — so it only made sense that Zest would become the name of his new eatery in Bay Shore. The restaurant’s name perfectly suits the energy given off by its food and art.

“When I paint every dish in my mind, I’m always thinking of the colors,” Liebman said. “At the end of the day, it’s really about the taste for somebody who is cooking at home, but for me I want people to visually see it.”

Zest opened at 298 West Main St. in Bay Shore in November — inside the same building where Liebman previously served as head chef of Slice of Bay Shore. 

Liebman’s culinary experience spans across several popular Long Island eateries, including Teller’s in Islip, the former Nonnina’s Italian Restaurant which is now Primi, and an Italian pork store in Massapequa called Primavera Meats.

Now, he has his very own, family-friendly restaurant, which he hopes remains a positive atmosphere through which to unite people under one common denominator: food. 

When it comes to Zest’s food genre, Liebman said he “jumps” all over the place, dipping his toes in various kinds of cuisine. 

He describes his eatery as more of a fusion-type restaurant that specializes in small plates. 

Some of the crowd favorites include the grilled zucchini rollatini and the Thai coconut shrimp craft pizza pie (check out the photos below).

The two dishes are just a couple of examples that show off Liebman’s way of painting the palette and going against the grain when it comes to traditional flavors. 

“I just try things. If it works, it works — if it doesn’t, it doesn’t,” Liebman said. 

In addition to the grilled zucchini rollatini, he also made sure to include other vegetarian options on the menu for people looking to be more health-conscious, he said. 

On the beverage front, customers can choose from a selection of beer, organic wines, and a suite of sangrias, which Zest offers up as flight options.

The sangria is made fresh daily and includes tasty flavor combinations, such as coconut mango and cherry watermelon. 

As far as the décor goes, portraits of an array of musicians and cultural icons — from Aretha Franklin and Marilyn Monroe to Madonna and Notorious B.I.G. — line the dining room walls.

Outside, there’s a mural that reads “Live Life with Zest” — an ideal backdrop for Insta-worthy photos. 

Liebman credits his girlfriend Perrotta for her help in designing the logo and in developing ideas for the overall design of the space.

“It was a lot of late nights thinking about it,” Liebman said. “I wanted everything to be a conversation — from when you sit down, to when the food comes.” 

Liebman said his ideas keep flowing and he has a variety of specials planned for the future. 

Aside from chef duties, Perrotta spoke about how Liebman strives to be a true “face” for Zest, which sometimes means serving tables and making a personal connection with his customers.

“He has pages and pages of ideas,” Perrotta said. “He really is an incredible chef, but he’s even a better person; when he comes out here it makes a big difference.” 

Below are 15 cool images inside and outside Zest captured by Andrew Theodorakis of Yellow House Images. Click on the numbered boxes to see them all.

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