Vegetarian and Italian restaurants opening in Plaza early next year

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Zen Garden, a vegetarian and vegan eatery, will be succeeding Royal Tea House at 1 Great Neck Road. The owner said she hopes to open in early January. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)
Zen Garden, a vegetarian and vegan eatery, will be succeeding Royal Tea House at 1 Great Neck Road. The owner said she hopes to open in early January. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)

Food enthusiasts, vegetarians and vegans may have a new treat or two to start the new year in Great Neck Plaza.

Great Neck Plaza trustees approved a conditional use permit for Zen Garden on Wednesday, which will take over the space of the former Royal Tea House at 1 Great Neck Road, and reviewed a sign application by Plus 39, an Italian eatery slated to take over the Great Neck Gourmet space at 16 Middle Neck Road.

Isobel Zui, the owner and president of Zen Garden, said she wanted to fill a void by providing options for vegetarians and vegans alike.

She also noted vegan diets are very strict and items can be “very difficult to make” – hence why there aren’t many – but that Zen Garden’s chef has more than 20 years of experience doing business in Manhattan.

“She knows some trendy dishes to provide different varieties,” Zui said. “Even non-vegetarian customers will be very satisfied and have a dining experience.”

Among the menu items are soups, salads, noodles, smoothies, mushroom-based entries, tempura dishes, grilled eggplants, sushi and a variety of teas.

Zui said the vegan and vegetarian dishes are prepared separately using organic ingredients. There are also aiming to be “family-oriented,” she said, with child-friendly options.

Great Neck Plaza trustees offered advice based off of what the previous owners did. Among the ideas were making sure shades stay up when the restaurant is open and having the word “restaurant” in the name above.

Zui said she hopes to open Zen Garden on Jan. 1. Because of the extensive work done by Royal Tea House before them, Zui said very little work needed to be done on the interior.

“We want to focus on the food itself,” Zui said. “That’s the most important part.”

Jerry Mannino, the owner of Plus 39, said on Friday that the restaurant’s named for Italy’s country code and hopes to open sometime in February.

Mannino said they will offer brick over pizza that can be cooked in minutes, which will be “one of our specialties.” They will also have a station where customers can create their own salads, an Italian-style breakfast menu, and a display where people can see the creation of gelato.

“Basically, the gelato is made to order,” Mannino said. “It’s a beautiful piece of equipment and we’re actually going to be the first people to have it on Long Island.”

Asked why Mannino picked Great Neck Plaza as a location, he said they “just fell across it.”

“We weren’t really looking to go into any specific location – the location fell into our arms,” Mannino said. “They said the previous owner was looking to sell it, so the first we saw it, we fell in love with the location.”

Mannino said he hopes that customers will experience great food, a cozy environment, and feel excited enough to keep coming back.

Plus 39’s conditional use permit was approved early last month.

Their other location is La Nonna Bella – or “beautiful grandmother” in Italian – in Garden City at 660 Franklin Ave.

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