The Urbanics are happy to be back on the farm, cooking the things they love to cook for the people who love to eat them.
Written by Steven Keith
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 Urbanic says. “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. Cafe Cimino quickly became one of the state’s top restaurants, expanding eight years later when the Urbanics purchased the 1800s P.J. Berry Estate a few doors down on the banks of the Elk River. They moved the restaurant there to anchor Cafe 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 into the business that it’s no surprise where they’ve landed next.
Harmony on the Farm
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 key word here being “small.” “We definitely right-sized ourselves,” Melody Urbanic says with a laugh. “We can still do what we love, but at a more relaxing pace.”
So Tim Urbanic, who devoted his COVID quarantine to 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 Chef Tim’s famous herbed focaccia. You can dig into biscuits and sausage gravy, a seasonal frittata, a 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.
The Stuff Dreams Are Made Of
It’s a menu their customers love—and one that’s fulfilling their own dreams as well. “I never wanted to stop cooking,” Tim Urbanic says. “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 Cafe 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 Urbanic adds. “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.”