As cliche as is it is to say, I absolutely LOVE the city of Loveland. If you aren’t familiar, Loveland is a small community of 13,000 just outside the 275 loop, northeast of Montgomery. Nestled along the Little Miami River, Loveland is known for its 70 mile long bike trail, with connections to well over 100 miles. But what has also emerged along the river and bike trails is a quaint downtown area with dozens of locally owned and operated small businesses: boutiques, restaurants, bike shops, canoe rentals, cafes, a record shop, even a brewery.
About two years back, this idyllic town was devastated by fire, burning three local businesses and an apartment building nearly to the ground. One of which was Tano Bistro. If you’re curious about what happened, read more here, but I don’t want to dwell much on it because what has come from this extremely unfortunate event has been something worth celebrating. Nearly a year later, owner’s Gina and Chef Gaetano (Tano) Williams rebuilt and reopened Tano Bistro with a menu, space, and team that is stronger than ever.
So, I should probably preface this article by saying that I’ve had the pleasure to work closely with Gina and Tano Williams on their social media marketing at dooley media, so I may be slightly biased. Or, you can look at it as I have really gotten to know their team and their restaurants, so you should consider me an expert on the subject? Your call.
This weekend, Mer, Mer’s husband Ryan, and I (3rd wheel, per usual) visited Loveland to (FINALLY) dine at Tano Bistro, and to visit some of the shops around down. We popped into Cincy Shirts to play the Froggerman game that one of their employees actually built (!!!), dug for records at Plaid Room Records (the home of over 20,000 LPs, and an actual recording space for Colemine Record Label). We grabbed a pre-dinner beer flight at Narrow Path Brewery (get the kickstand), made it back to Tano Bistro for dinner, then ended with a sugary night cap of chocolate (dark, so it’s healthy, right?) at Loveland Sweets.
So, after the fire, Chef Tano’s time in the kitchen inevitably took a bit of a hiatus, and he was able to focus on his journey to source his ingredients not just from local farmers and growers, but from small businesses with the highest quality ingredients. His goal was to find purveyors that closely aligned with their mission:
“[Tano Bistro] believes in making wholesome food naturally and responsibly simply because it’s better for all of us. For a decade, we have been on a wholehearted quest to find the regions most dedicated, like-minded, and genuine farmers, growers, butchers, and bakers to bring us the best that our earth and animals can provide in the most natural and friendly way. “
These farmers, growers, butchers and bakers include Freedom Run Lamb, Five Points Ranch, Carriage House Farms, Tortilleria Garcia, 80 Acres (which we’ve previously written about here), and Blooms & Berries, to name a few. You can see the full list of purveyors here.
When we dined at Tano Bistro, there were 3 highlights of the evening. The first was the opportunity to sit down with Chef Tano himself to hear more about his background (he actually started in the kitchen at TGI Fridays back when TGI Fridays was a big deal). Years later, he and his family came to Cincinnati where he served as the chef at McCormick and Schmick’s before he and his wife, Gina, fulfilled their dream of opening up their own restaurant. Tano walked us through the tasting menu for the evening, telling stories about where he sourced the ingredients and the reasoning why he chose to partner with each particular purveyor.
Highlight #2: The garden manager of Carriage House Farms and her family were actually sitting at the table with us, and her farm’s produce was woven throughout the tasting menu. It was so cool to sit next to them and hear their story. She shared the constant struggle of surviving as a small farm and going up against big box stores, but spoke with pride about the health benefits of eating local and not relying on produce being shipped in from other countries. Being able to sit next to the growers while we were enjoying their food? Talk about an experience. It was also really refreshing to hear their candid feelings towards Chef Tano and the appreciation that they have not only for him featuring their produce on the menu, but also his willingness to work with them on highlighting their variety of produce as the seasons change.
The final highlight? The food itself. Tano Bistro has a menu that changes with the seasons (so, they serve you meals with fresh and in season ingredients that are picked up from farms across the region). Tano created a tasting menu that featured warm, comforting dishes that are seasonal to winter, but also had a hint of spring produce, really identifying with the time of the year. The menu was custom for the evening, but similar items are featured on the actual menu here.
Oh, and for dessert? That panna cotta was handcrafted by their in house pastry chef. You better believe I licked the plate.
I walked away from dinner that night with a few things on my mind. First of all, how stuffed I was, but #noregrets. Second, how good it felt to physically eat quality ingredients, but also mentally, knowing that by having that food on my table was putting food on the tables of families of farmers and growers across the region. And third, how I can’t wait to visit Loveland again when the weather warms up so I can hit the trail and experience the new spring menu (and and the rooftop!) at Tano Bistro.