Bop & Nana's Bakery: A success story as sweet as they come
As far as success stories go, they don’t get much sweeter than this.
Back on Valentine’s Day in 1999, with the odds stacked against them, Tim and Melody Urbanic opened a little Italian restaurant in a restored storefront in Sutton.
With no previous experience owning a restaurant. In a town of less than 1,000. On a street where boarded-up businesses were the norm.
What were they thinking, many asked? How would they ever survive there?
“We just wanted a place to share all the fresh food we grew on our farm,” Melody said, “so we took a leap of faith.”
And leap, they did.
They not only survived, but thrived, with positive reviews spreading like garlic butter on toast. Café Cimino quickly became one of the state’s top restaurants, expanding eight years later when the Urbanics purchased the circa-1800s P.J. Berry Estate a few doors down on the banks of the Elk River.
They moved the restaurant there to anchor Café Cimino Country Inn which, to no one’s surprise at this point, also became one of the state’s most sought-after getaways for “foodies.”
But good food wasn’t the only appeal.
Hostess Melody welcomed guests with hugs and smiles, like she was having her own family over to dinner. Chef Tim would emerge from the kitchen to chat with folks about how this dish or that sauce was inspired by his grandmother’s recipe.
Their warmth was so baked-in to the business that it’s no surprise where they’ve landed next.
After recently selling the inn to enjoy the fruits of their labor on the family farm in Chloe, the Urbanics are now making magic with fruit – and veggies, meats, cheeses and more – once again with the launch of Bop & Nana’s Bakery & Catering, a venture that allows them to work only as much as they want to.
They take orders for pickup, cater small gatherings and host intimate events on the farm’s lovely grounds. The keyword here being small.
“We definitely right-sized ourselves,” Melody laughed. “We can still do what we love, but at a more relaxing pace.”
So Tim, who spent the COVID quarantine transforming the farmhouse’s former canning room into a new commercial kitchen, now spends his days making and baking homemade goodness for a still-strong legion of fans, pulling ingredients from his garden right outside.
Family folks at heart, they named the new business Bop & Nana’s because that’s what their grandkids call them. On the new menu are family-style (and sized!) baked goods, appetizers, soups, salads, entrées and desserts, serving anywhere from a couple to a couple dozen.
You can nosh on apple-cinnamon or blueberry muffins, almond or chocolate-dipped biscotti, cranberry-pecan scones or Tim’s famous herbed focaccia. You can dig into biscuits and sausage gravy, a seasonal frittata, Spanish potato-onion tortilla or antipasto platters loaded with local and imported meats, cheeses, veggies and olives.
Sicilian deep-dish pizza and muffuletta sandwiches are available, along with hearty Italian pastas like handmade meatballs and lasagna, sausage and peppers, garlic Parmesan-crusted chicken and Shrimp Provençal.
Then you can cap off your catered or to-go feast with mini fruit, cream or chocolate tarts, flavored pizzelles, date-nut bars and chocolate hazelnut mousse.
It’s a menu their customers love – and one that’s fulfilling their own dreams as well.
“I never wanted to stop cooking,” Tim said, “but it’s nice to be able to do it the way I like.”
And what he likes, is taking his time and savoring the process.
“The biggest difference between cooking now and at Café Cimino is I have three big panoramic windows here overlooking the farm, the pond, the trees. I couldn’t even pick up pans fast enough back at the restaurant, but I can really slow-cook here.”
He’s back to working with cast iron skillets, copper pots and carbon-steel knives with wooden handles. You can hear the smile in his voice as he tells you this.
“Hey, I’m 75 now. I can put on the music I like, not what some young sous chef wants to blast, and I can pour a glass of wine or relax outside while something’s in the oven. I’m having the time of my life.”
Consider it the spoils of a “retirement” well-deserved.
“It really feels like we’ve come full circle,” Melody added. “We started the restaurant years ago because we wanted a place to serve our fresh food from the farm. Now here we are back on the farm, still sharing our food with others. We couldn’t ask for anything more!”
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Steven Keith is a food writer and restaurant critic known as “The Food Guy” who writes a weekly column for the Charleston Gazette-Mail and has appeared in several state, regional and national culinary publications. Follow him online at www.wvfoodguy.com or on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. He can be reached at 304-380-6096 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.