Bloomfield, N.J. - From a young age, Luciana was always an entrepreneur. At only seven years old, she would call her younger sister into her room and sprawl out her arms announcing "ROOOOOM SALES!" She would then sell her sister random items from her room and make her use her piggy bank change to pay.
Nowadays, "FOOD SALES" is more her drift.
Meet Luciana Contuzzi, the creator of zest, a healthy food oriented business that specializes in gluten and dairy free meals. Initially based in her hometown of Fairfield as its flagship standalone location since March 2017, she now plans to branch out to Super Foodtown in Bloomfield, opening Monday, April 23.
"The offer to be involved in Super Foodtown of Bloomfield was presented to me and I knew I could not pass it up. Bloomfield is a growing city with many health-oriented residents, plus the train station is right across from Foodtown, making it the perfect location! I love the idea of shoppers of Foodtown being able to sip on a healthy smoothie or juice while shopping, focusing on more healthy choices! We also just opened up inside of Gym NYC on Mulberry Street in NYC!"
Here is how it works. zest is a quick service, to go style café. Customers order at the front counter and then wait for their order and can either dine in or take out. Orders available online for pick up or delivery are Meal Prep, Juice Cleanses, and Baked Goods. Finally, you can also make call in orders by phone and use the DoorDash app for delivery.
"zest was created so everyone can enjoy healthy food, feel great and get excited about it! From our bright green walls, friendly and knowledgeable staff and unique items, I wanted to create a community around zest. It’s a bonus that all ingredients are gluten and dairy free," Contuzzi says.
zest products are all created not only with all gluten and dairy free ingredients but only natural sugars such as coconut sugar and agave as well. They incorporate healthy alternatives, such as applesauce as an oil substitute and Chickpea Cacao Bars, which bear a similarity to blondies. They also use Dirty Dozen organic ingredients to ensure that their juices are fresh and uncontaminated. At their Fairfield location, they offer a rotating Meals to Go Fridge. Meal favorites are Mac ’n "Cheese" (with Organic Cashews, Organic Sweet Potatoes & Organic Carrots as the "cheese") and Almond Meal Chicken Nuggets (baked Organic Chicken with Almond Meal as the outer layer). Although a majority of the menu is vegan, they also provide the option for organic chicken and eggs on some items as well.
"Although everything on the menu is delicious and nutritious, our most popular items from each category are the Peanut Butter Powerhouse Acai Bowl, Chocolate Peanut Bubba Smoothie, Energize Juice, Avocado Krust and Chickpea Cacao Bar," says Contuzzi.
zest also hosts events! Their first was a fair in Bergen County and in Fairfield they hold different themed BYOB pop up dinners once a month. They also offer cooking classes, private events and dinners, parties, and catering.
Contuzzi is a Seton Hall University graduate with a degree in finance and information technology management. She is also a millennial, and just as the generation is associated with health trends and avocados, so is zest.
"As one of our tank tops states, ‘We go together like Avocado and literally everything!’ Avocados are an extremely healthy fat, also full of potassium (more than bananas) and fiber. We use avocados a ton - from our famous Avocado Krust (smashed avocado with lemon juice, pink himalayan sea salt & black pepper on gluten free toast) to Avocado Chocolate Pudding," says Contuzzi.
Another generational benefit she takes advantage of is social media, and she says that becoming Instagram famous is one of her greatest success stories.
"My goal is to have 10k followers by the end of the year," explains Contuzzi, "I LOVE posting great pictures with punny captions each morning. Instagram is great because it helps spread the word about zest and gets people excited about what to try next! I believe it really brightens people’s day to read the captions and seeing the pictures helps them make healthy choices, even if they can’t come to zest that day. Seeing others join in commenting, liking and posting on all social media platforms is an amazing feeling and I only hope it grows."
However, another great success story she has is seeing people get excited about nutrition and sharing this excitement with others, especially those who were never interested in doing so initially and are now enjoying it. She in turn enjoys seeing people’s health improve from her products.
"I’ve had people with skin disorders become cured by drinking our Turmeric Lattes and customers who participate in Weekly Meal Prep drop tons of pounds and feel more energized. It’s amazing to be a part of their journey."
zest will be hosting a Mother’s Day BYOB Brunch Dinner at the Fairfield location on Thursday, May 10 from 7 to 8:30 PM.