Chef Michael Feker is looking for family recipes he can tweak and serve. The inventive restaurateur’s quest makes sense as he continues to bring dishes from all over the world — including local families — to Zesti in Hartland.
Feker established Zesti three years ago, inspired by Lake Country friends.
“We never could get together, so I decided to do this so that we can be together,” Feker said, “Now I have many friends here.”
An array of flavors
He continues to perfect the concept of a global menu of diverse flavors drawn from his own varied background and culinary training. Born in Iran, he lived in Switzerland and England and learned French and Italian cuisine.
Part of his training was on a cruise ship for more than three months where he was exposed to many other cultures.
The result is a chef and restaurant owner who features a potpourri of items that this spring included an Italian favorite of roasted eggplant, zucchini and tomatoes from Tuscany; banh mi, a Vietnamese roasted organic pork loin; paella de maracas, a Spanish specialty of rice, shrimp, scallops cod and smoked sausage; croquet monsieur, a grilled ham and cheese sandwich from Paris; and steak Gatsby, a Cape Town, South Africa-inspired black angus.
Those were just a few items from the lunch menu. The rest of the restaurant’s food repertoire is just as impressive.
“I really wanted to bring all of that together, to give people an opportunity to taste different foods from everywhere,” Feker said. “Zesti has turned into a community eatery with great value and great service.”
Ingredients beyond food
Feker has created an atmosphere with an emphasis on repurposed materials. The “raw ingredients,” as he calls them, include barn wood and century-old brick from a local brickyard He uses bare Edison lightbulbs hanging from a Spanish-style ceiling and old garage doors to open up for warmer-season seating.
He also opened up a window to the kitchen so patrons can see the cleanliness of the food preparations.
Before opening the 82-seat Zesti, Feker opened Il Mito in 1997 in Milwaukee’s Walker's Point. He eventually moved the restaurant to Wauwatosa, where it thrives. He has opened a culinary school next to that restaurant and reportedly is planning to redevelop a three-story building in Milwaukee’s Amani neighborhood into a community-supported restaurant, grocery store and urban indoor agricultural facility.
As for Zesti, Feker said he is happy with his decision to do business in Lake Country.
“It has been a very good experience,” he said.
LOCATION: 130 E. Capitol Drive, Hartland, WI
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 10 pm. Friday and Saturday; 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. brunch and 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday. Closed Monday.
AMBIENCE: Rustic chic
PRICE RANGE: $6.95 for a side salad to $20.95 for Japanese-style short ribs. (Note: Feker regularly tweaks his menu, so it is best to check the website.) There are wine discounts on Wednesdays and a loyalty program.
ACCOMMODATING DIETARY NEEDS: Check with server.