Slice plans on expanding hours for the summer season
When Steve Liebhauser opened Slice of Heaven with his wife Maria 10 years ago, he didn’t have a lot of restaurant experience. “I had a background in commercial finance and theater,” Leibhauser said.
The Liebhausers decided to open Slice of Heaven in Jamestown because Maria’s parents lived here.
“I went to Johnson & Wales, so we lived with them,” Steve Liebhauser said. “This place became available, so we dropped anchor here.”
That theater background actually came in handy for Liebhauser. He said while he was in New York working in the theatre, he ended up spending a lot of time in restaurants. He also added that he has always loved to cook.
Like many of the restaurants in Jamestown, Liebhauser is proud of his local following. “It’s defi- nitely local,” he said. “Obviously when the summer comes, the tourist impact is huge, but we’re here for Jamestown. Our son Max was born here. We’re living here. We’d like to keep turning out good food. The town’s been very good to us. We keep on building the place, and we keep on battling to make it a real special place.”
When Slice of Heaven closes at 3 p.m. these days, a construction crew roles in to complete an upgrade of the 10-year-old restaurant’s customer service area.
“We’re giving a big facelift to the area where we meet and greet our customers,” Liebhauser said. “We’re going to have just a bit more of a sophisticated feel to the area, with a stand-up coffee bar. We moved the pastry case. We closed the kitchen off just a little bit more, although it will still have an open feel.”
When it came time to upgrade the area, Liebhauser called on some local professionals. “We’ve got some really good guys helping us,” he said. “Shahin Barzin is the architect on the redesign of the customer area. He’s brilliant. We’re going to feature a glass sculpture by Paul Housberg who is a local glass artisan who does interesting work. It’s going to have a really elegant feel to it.”
Although Slice of Heaven is not usually open for dinner, the restaurant does stay open on Fridays and Saturdays in the summer.
“The idea of the changeover was to have a place that people might think, ‘Oh, that’s a good spot for dinner,’” Liebhauser said. “We’ve been doing it every year since we opened in the summertime. We’ve always been putting out good food, but it hasn’t been as successful as we want it to be.”
Liebhauser decided that the problem is that people think of Slice of Heaven just for breakfast and lunch.
“That’s where our bread and butter is. It feels like that,” he said. “Despite the fact that the restaurant has had a liquor license for 10 years, there are still customers who are surprised when they see the bottles.”
Liebhauser said that once the renovations are complete, they will stay open for dinner on Fridays and Saturdays. He said that the lunch menu will always be available.
“Salads and sandwiches are all available because it’s perfect to bring the whole family. We’ll run four or five real nice dinner specials.”
Liebhauser, who cooked and studied in Italy, said he plans on featuring local fish and pasta dishes such as linguini and clams.
“We’ll set you up with great food at a fair price, with a glass of wine,” he said.
It is important for Liebhauser to work with local fishermen to get his seafood. He said he usually gets all of his lobsters from his friend who owns the boat, Indecision. “When he starts fishing, I get lobsters. Local fishermen will bring in the striped bass. We work with the local fish purveyors as well.”
Keeping a restaurant afloat in these perilous economic times is a challenge, something that is not lost on Liebhauser. “We have to work really hard to control costs and payroll,” he said. “Everything is more expensive than it was a year ago. Every single thing we buy is more expensive and most things are more expensive by like 30 percent, just like it is at home. So we have to tweak things here and there.”
He added that running a restaurant can be a lot of work. “We’re a small restaurant. I honestly don’t know how guys have two or three restaurants. They must go out of their minds,” Liebhauser said.
He said running just the one small restaurant allows him to oversee everything. “To have the place running the way I like to see it running, I pretty much feel like I have to be here a lot of the time,” he said. “I think that people realize that, and they appreciate that. They know that we’re looking after things.”
Leibhauser also mentioned that his restaurant prides itself on being so clean: “We keep the place spotless, gleaming. We keep the kitchen immaculate.”
He also said that having the open kitchen is a way for the customer to feel like he or she is being cared for. “People like that,” he said. “They like to feel like they’re being cared for.”
Slice of Heaven is located at 32 Narragansett Ave. During the summer the restaurant will be open from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the week, and until 9:30 or 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.