Most businesses, sadly, never recover from a devastating natural disaster. But when fire swept through Loveland’s downtown business core two years ago, it signaled not the end but the beginning of a beautiful new story for Tano Bistro.
Career-chef Tano Williams has always been a detail-oriented person. With his restaurant closed for renovations after the fire, it only made sense for him to spend his forced sabbatical peeling back layers of his business model and rediscovering a deep passion for hand-crafted hospitality.
“To a large degree, the fire only catapulted what was already in motion,” says Williams, who, along with wife Gina, has been committed to sourcing food responsibly — and when possible, locally — since moving to Loveland in 2009. “What it also did was give me the time to make new relationships.”
One such serendipitous connection was with the fifth-generation water buffalo farmers at 5 Points Ranch in New Knoxville, OH. Williams sampled their wares while attending a butchery seminar at Cincinnati State and was “blown away” by the meat’s high moisture content and fresh, grass-fed flavor. It spawned a whole new approach to grilling that Williams blind taste-tested with his customers to unanimous acclaim.
Inspired, Williams began meeting with vendors like Kuck Farms, which processes Tano Bistro’s beef, pork, turkey, and lamb. He walked the floor at Braveheart slaughterhouse and learned about using DNA to track an animal from birth to consumption. He examined chicken from North Georgia that plumps instead of shrinks when you cook it. He revisited some building blocks, too, finding the superior quality of kitchen basics like King Arthur flour and Michigan unbleached sugar, for example.
“A lot of our ‘mother’ recipes, like our marinara, are still made the same way — EVOO, San Marzano tomatoes, always vegetarian,” says Williams. “Those things didn’t change, but what did was the amount of time and attention we’re investing into our people and our process. Those things are still changing and evolving. We’re still looking to do more.”
Indeed, much of what locals know and love remains — although Tano Bistro has doubled in size — in a Loveland business district that’s stronger and more vibrant than ever. Many former employees returned, and some new ones joined the team. The vibe is still casual-upscale, with three distinctive floors and seasonally crafted dishes and artisan wines that routinely steal the show.
Williams is grateful for the chance to step back and look at the big picture. “When we moved to Cincinnati in 2000, the food scene was little more than a handful of places downtown and big-box restaurants. It’s been humbling after 40-plus years to be part of the current food explosion. People realize we are living in the middle of a chef and farmer’s utopia. This new way of being intentional brave enough to try something new — it’s a long-term trend. And we should all be very excited about what’s next.”
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