One man’s zest for art, food and life will be on constant display at this Bay Shore restaurant slated to open later this fall.
Michael Liebman is taking over his old stomping grounds, the Slice of Bay Shore at 298 West Main St., where he served as head chef, with a small-plates concept called Zest.
With splashes of vibrant colors and pop-art photography throughout the space, Liebman is hoping to create a positive atmosphere through which to unite people under one common denominator: food.
“It’ll be all showstopping stuff,” he said. “You’ll sit here for the first time and the colors will pop. A lot of the stars aligned to get to this point.”
The words “foie gras” tattooed on his fingers prove the permanent hold cooking has on Liebman’s life.
Liebman’s culinary experience spans across several local places on the island, 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.
Since his early days in culinary school, the goal has always been to open his own place, and when the former Slice owners were thinking about putting the place on the market, he saw it has his chance.
Portraits from an array of musicians and cultural icons such, form Aretha Franklin to Marilyn Monroe to the Notorious B.I.G., will line the walls, he says.
Outside of the restaurant, Liebman plans on featuring a pop-art wall mural for customers to take photos.
“I want it to have like an art gallery look,” he said. “Before people get to the menu, they’re absorbing everything.”
As far as the menu goes, it will include upscale sandwiches, tapa-style appetizers, and a long list of small plates instead of entrées.
Customers will be able to choose from a selection of beer, organic wines and a suite of sangrias, which he will also offer up as flight options.
Some of Liebman’s creations include a Thai PB&J, crispy panko chicken club, a spicy soppressata craft pie, and Liebman’s signature item, “The Zest Pop Pie,” which is a classic small pizza with food-coloring to make it pop.
“There are a lot of smoke components, like the meatballs I’m going to smoke instead of fry,” Liebman added. “There’s gonna be a little flair — I want it to be a rotating menu and my biggest focus is revolving specials.”
Liebman is looking to open sometime this fall. He is just finalizing some permits and gearing up to start redesigning the interior next week.
He hopes to not only be a family-friendly, neighborhood spot, but to attract a younger crowd as well.
At the end of the day, the chef says Zest is a physical representation of Liebman’s character and his values as a restauranteur.
Throughout this process of becoming a restaurant owner, he says he has evolved from being the chef “hidden” in the kitchen.
“I’m definitely at the part of my life where I am 100 percent ready,” he said. “I bought purple and red chef shoes, lime green chef jackets, so it’s going to be tying everything together.
“And I’m just going full speed ahead.”
Follow greaterbayshore.com for updates on Zest and a sneak peek before its opens.
Top: Chef Michael Liebman, owner of the soon-to-be-open Zest in Bay Shore. (Ana Borruto