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  • Writer's pictureHeather DiPrato

The Liberatos: Chef Nicky Returns to His Bucks Co Roots

Story by Heather DiPrato. Photos by Frank Pronesti of Heirloom Studio. This month's Family Story is sponsored by Capital Health,

Sometimes it takes traveling the world to realize just how much you appreciate your childhood roots. Nick Liberato was born in Doylestown and spent much of his youth in the Yardley/Newtown area. With a passion for performing, an appreciation of great food, and wanderlust for new and exotic places, he left Bucks County for Los Angeles, and developed an enviable career as a restaurateur, chef, and tv personality.

Nick began his career at the age of 7 working with his grandparents at their produce stand in the Italian market located in the heart of South Philadelphia. He learned to cook practicing traditional Italian recipes with his father and grandmother preparing food for family gatherings. Eventually, he began travelling with wealthy families, preparing meals and learning along the way. He honed his craft by working at various restaurants in New York and Los Angeles.

In 2014, Nick became the executive chef at the Venice Whaler in Venice, California, and a partner of Venice Restaurant Group. He later started a catering business called Calidelphia, which was featured on Top Chef Masters on Bravo TV, and he appeared as a chef on 15 episodes of Spike TVs hit show Bar Rescue. In 2019 he traveled extensively for the filming of his most recent production, a travel and culinary series called Restaurants on the Edge, which is now streaming two seasons on Netflix.

Restaurants on the Edge was the culmination of Nick’s experience in the restaurant industry and a passion for finding “diamonds in the rough” to transform into local gems. On the show, we follow Nick and his colleagues, designer Karin Bohn and Chef Dennis Prescot, as they help struggling restaurateurs in exotic locations around the world. To help turn their businesses around, the team explores the local environs for inspiration. Then, they help renovate the décor and refresh the menus with unique dishes featuring local flavors to attract both tourists and locals. “I hope everyone takes the time to check it out with their families,” says Nick.

Even with the glamour of international travel and celebrity chef status, more than anything, Nick is passionate about his family. When Restaurants on the Edge was about to begin production, Nick and his wife, Jennifer, made the decision to relocate with their three daughters, Bella {6), Allessandra (5), Sofia (2), and their 14-year-old chihuahua, Johnny, from Venice, CA to Newtown. “We decided to move to Bucks County to slow the pace down, and also to be closer to family,” says Nick. “Coming home has been amazing, we love Bucks County!”

After Restaurants on the Edge completed production, Nick returned to spend quality time with his wife and daughters shortly before the world began closing down. “The pandemic has been tough on us all,” he tells us, “It’s so hard to interact and meet new people.” Nick has been an avid skateboarder, surfer, and snowboarder since he was a kid, and he enjoys seeing his children experiencing some of the same things that made his childhood so fantastic. “I began skateboarding in my neighborhood with the girls, which has been a really fun way to bond.”

Over the past year, Nick has also been working to develop a new restaurant called The Borscht Belt in nearby Stockton, NJ. “The Borscht Belt concept began from a longing for the family, culture, and authentic food that ties us all together,” Nick explains. “The Borscht Belt will deliver a culinary experience with the best of the NYC deli, bagels, baked goods, and more.” Nick continues, “Much like the Borscht Belt in the Catskills of days gone by, we will serve as a place of comfort, nourishment, and lots of laughter, too!”

Nick says, “Everyone in the restaurant business is at risk during the pandemic. Many places have switched to a takeout-centered model. The capacity of restaurants has been cut in half, and a lot of businesses are struggling or even closing.” Nick believes the key to survival is adapting to our new reality, masks, paperless menus, and cashless transactions. “Social media is another key to helping restaurants stay in contact with their customers,” Nick explains.

With an array of safe and friendly dining and catering options, Nick’s reimagined delicatessen is reminiscent of a bygone era. “Our goal is a place that reminds people about how food, family, and friends can come together to create joy. It’s going to be a taste of the past, with a contemporary and gourmet-twist,” says Nick. “We are so excited and cannot wait to welcome our friends and neighbors to The Borscht Belt when we open, which is planned for April.”

Nick and Jennifer both love to travel. Jennifer is a Spanish teacher with Neshaminy School District, and Mexico is a favorite destination for the Liberato family. “We have unbelievable memories from traveling there,” says Jennifer. “The surf, dancing, eating and chilling on the beach, we are beach people for sure,” laughs Nick. “The girls fell in love with Mexico on a 2018 trip,” he says. “They are extremely comfortable with the language and culture, as they attended a bilingual preschool in California. They keep asking when we are going to be able to go back!”

Exploring Mexico, Central America and South America have been passions for Nick. An avid traveler, he has already visited every continent except Antarctica! Still, there are more adventures for Nick and the family on the horizon. “There are so many places we’d still like to travel,” Nick tells us. “We are really looking forward to exploring again!”

Nick and Jennifer are both focused on their kids, providing experiences and education to help them to embrace their heritage and traditions. Nick is Roman Catholic, and Jennifer is Jewish. The girls have been attending the Shir Ami Early Learning Center in Newtown. “We feel blessed for their outstanding educational program and nurturing environment that they provide for our girls,” Jennifer explains. “We couldn’t be happier seeing them learn about their heritage, culture, and traditions. Plus, they love learning about science, nature, and new languages.” Nick agrees, “We love everything about living here. The community is still filled with all the good things I remember from being a kid. And it’s a wonderful place to raise our girls!”

If you’d like to follow the family’s adventures, check out Nick’s Instagram (@chefnicky). You can also stream 13 episodes of Restaurants on the Edge on Netflix and stay tuned for more news about The Borscht Belt delicatessen at To view the recipe for the Banana Bread Chef Nicky and his family are making, see the accompanying article.

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