In 2011, when nutritionist and holistic health coach Elena Pezzo, owner of Green Bar & Kitchen, learned of her brother Anthony's stroke and subsequent coma, she was devastated. Only a few years earlier, the 33-year-old New York native had lost both of her parents and had battled poor health and depression herself as a result.
Despite recommendations from numerous doctors that Anthony's family pull the plug, insisting he would remain a vegetable, Elena did not give up, and instead turned to spirituality and her holistic health food background to help bring back her brother.
After numerous setbacks and moments of discouragement, Elena demanded omega-3 fish oil be administered into his feeding tube, and slowly, Anthony began to recover and even speak. With the aid of other holistic modalities, E3 live, co Q10, "green" smoothies, and the continued love and support of his family, his condition continued to improve. Today, Anthony has regained 100 percent of his memory and cognition.
Recognizing the power of superfoods and acting on a calling to help others through her own experience, Elena created the Zenergy food truck and immediately started to gain a following throughout South Florida. The truck served raw, vegan, and gluten-free snacks and desserts, smoothies, and organic coffees and teas, keeping an emphasis on distinctive flavors and clean, healthy living.
The Zenergy truck did so well, it eventually caught the attention of Blaise McMackin, owner of the popular Ft. Lauderdale watering hole Tap 42, who quickly became a fan and regular. Together, along with her life partner and raw food chef Charles Grippo, the team came up with the concept for Green Bar & Kitchen, a cafe that would meet the growing demand they saw for alternative food options in Ft. Lauderdale.
"We did this for the community," said Pezzo. "And they have been responding really nicely. Everyone wants clean food; everyone wants to eat real food."
All of the menu offerings at Green Bar are GMO-free, in-season and from local vendors. The cafe-sized space, with an occupancy of about 50 and a patio with outdoor seating, is split between a dining area and a health food market with various superfoods and organic wine and craft beer offerings.
With a keen eye for style and trend, Tap 42's Blaise McMackin helmed the design of Green Bar & Kitchen, making sure to give the cafe a hip, modern, and clean design. White walls are adorned with blocks of green moss, and a bench-styled high-top wood table takes up the bulk of the dining room, with an eye-catching beechwood light fixture overhead as the room's centerpiece.
Green Bar had its soft opening on February 4 and so far offers a salad and entree menu that, although modestly-sized and all raw and vegan, packs a punch of distinctive flavors that fill you up without leaving you feeling guilty.
I tried the Avocado Toast ($7), a tasty lunchtime snack on vegan, gluten-free millet toast, with sprouts, avocado mix, pink pepper corns, Himalayan sea salt, flower sprouts, goji berries, hemp seeds, cacao nibs, and coconut chips. Paired with a re-infusable superfruit tea, the chunks of which you eat once you're finished, my fare was both refreshing and energizing.
My friends gave the cafe's two most popular entree items a try. For $12, the all-raw Living Lasagna features zucchini pasta with a sun-dried tomato marinara, a surprisingly delicious macadamia ricotta, basil pesto, and extra virgin olive oil. The GBK Burger ($9) is made with brown rice, quinoa, chickpea, carrot, onion, parsley, sunflower seeds and garlic, and topped with tamari, smoked salt, pepper, extra virgin olive oil, thyme, sage, and a chipotle garlic mayo.
And while our food came out quickly, in less than 10 minutes, Green Bar is more than a simple fast food lunch joint, giving special care to presentation, as Executive Chef Charles Grippo sends out each plate looking as good as it tastes.
For dessert, we sampled the Sticky Icky, a cleverly named organic cocoa and puffed rice treat. Unfortunately, they had already run out of the cold brewed iced coffee I had been craving, which they import from my favorite joint in Wynwood, Miami, Panther Coffee.
Green Bar will have its hard opening on March 7, with a Grand Opening "Mini Health Fair" on that Saturday the 9th featuring various vegan and healthy-living vendors. The cafe will also extend its hours and menu, adding tapas-style fare meant to be paired with a bottle of organic wine for a relaxing evening out on the patio.
"The goal is to create a community," Pezzo emphasized. "I want to create a place that has everything you can get to feel great."
Future plans for Green Bar include creating a web store for their health food market, and expanding their product line to include positive affirmation glass bottles and even a vegan skin care line. Pezzo also plans to start offering a regular program of classes, from and "Intro to Raw" class to "What Are Superfoods?" and various other "continuous education" classes to help customers live better and healthier outside the cafe.
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