Filling a pressing need: Vitality Tap brings straightforward juices to Pacific Highlands Ranch

Vitality Tap is bringing good, honest juice to the Village at Pacific Highlands Ranch. The superfood-heavy juice bar opened recently with a sleek new store next to Starbucks.

“Everything we offer is fresh and hand-crafted,” said owner John Giannattasio of Vitality Tap’s smoothies, juices, acai “Superbowls,” elixirs and cleanse packages.

Giannattasio’s background is in fitness and nutrition; the former personal trainer opened his first Nutrition Zone store 12 years ago and now operates locations in Point Loma, Santee and downtown San Diego.

Six years ago, the downtown shop had a little extra space and Giannattasio and business partner Aaron Bearce thought a good way to complement the store was with a juice and smoothie bar. That bar was just the beginning, and the offerings evolved along the way, the more they learned.

“We wanted to focus more on what we believed in, nothing artificial, all organic, super-nutritious food that still tastes good,” Giannattasio said.

Through much experimenting in the kitchen, he came up with the menu that would make up Vitality Tap 2 1/2 years ago.

They built a following and a reputation that caught the attention of the Village ownership, and Vitality Tap jumped on the opportunity to expand. In addition to the new PHR store, a Vitality Tap opened in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, last week.

“Being a business owner and working a lot, the juices help me stay healthy and have energy throughout the day,” Giannattasio said. “It can be hard to have the time to cook enough vegetables to get the important nutrients I need. Juice is a good way to add nutrients and vegetables to your diet.”

Vitality Tap products are “honestly natural” — they do nothing to artificially extend the shelf life of their products, meaning no high-pressure processing or heat pasteurization.

Every morning they make their almond milk and date paste from scratch, and a wide variety of fresh vegetables and fruits double as store décor.

“Our offerings are very extensive, and a lot of work is involved to make things from scratch. We don’t cut corners. We believe in our products and want to make sure we stick to our high standards.”

The most popular juice on the menu is the Undressed Greens, which blends kale, romaine, celery, green apple, cucumber, lemon and ginger. Another popular item is the So Citrus, packing an immunity kick with grapefruit, orange, pineapple and Fuji apple.

Once Crunch Fitness opens a few doors down, Giannattasio hopes gym-goers will come by for energy-boosting pre-workout energy drinks or for their Flexin’, a recovery smoothie with chocolate protein.

Shooters on the menu help shock the system, such as the Detox Shot with cayenne pepper, coconut nectar, lemon, ginger, chaga mushrooms, moringa leaf and spirulina. The dandelion shot is also unique item, offering nutrient-dense dandelion with lime and cayenne.

“Our bowls are very popular,” Giannattasio said of their super-packed acai bowls.

The bowls are made with unsweetened acai berries, which makes for a thicker-than-normal bowl that can be topped with superfoods like hemp seeds, goji berries and cacao nibs, as well as the favorites like almond butter, fruit, coconut and granola.

Vitality Tap offers three cleanses designed for weight control, energy boosts, stress relief and mind clarity: juice feast, tonic teas and greens feast.

The juice feast, their most popular, detoxifies the body with juice from more than 50 pounds of cold-pressed fruits and veggies. The tea cleanse uses detoxifying green, black, oolong and pu-erh teas enhanced with superfood elixirs to leave clients feeling light, refreshed and satisfied.

The green feast is for most experienced cleansers and is considered the most challenging.

Cleanses can be ordered for one to five days.

Grab-and-go versions of juices are available, from small 8 ounce bottles to 16 ounces. Customers can also fill a Vitality Tap growler with juice.

There were several delays in opening the new store, but Giannattasio is happy to join the growing Village lineup — he said it’s getting better and better every day, as more stores open and more people frequent the new center.

“The community is amazing,” Giannattasio said, adding that he is especially excited about the number of schools in the area.

“We have an opportunity to introduce juice to young students, which is huge. We’ve had such a great response and it’s so nice to see middle school and high school kids come in and get a juice over other options they have.”