Raintree, a Chagrin Falls dining institution since 1972, is closing. And while the loss of such a treasured neighborhood institution likely will be sad news to many area residents, the restaurant's replacement should help ease the pain. By mid summer, veteran chef Tim Bando will open Grove Hill (25 Pleasant Dr.), named after the steep slope that is the site of the infamous annual Pumpkin Roll.
Raintree was part of a local restaurant group that included Nighttown, Watership Down and Lonesome Dove. Some restaurants closed, others were sold off, and Rich Tonelli became the sole owner of Raintree. The restaurant's last day of business is Friday, April 18.
"I never, ever pursued selling the restaurant because it's been my dream, it's been my baby, and I love my staff and customers," Tonelli explains. "People call me all the time and I always listen, but I always say no thanks. When I met Tim, I really liked him and thought it would be a great way to pass the baton. I want him to succeed more than anybody."
While Bando has been around the block, holding multiple positions in multiple restaurants in multiple cities, Grove Hill will be his first restaurant. Most recently, Bando helped open the Standard on East 185th. Before that, he worked as chef at Deagan's in Lakewood, Exile and Meeting House in Amagansett, New York, and Tremont in Manhattan. He began his professional cooking career alongside Michael Symon at the Caxton Café.
"I thought this would have happened sooner," admits Bando, who will turn 50 soon after opening day. "I sure as hell hope I benefit from the wisdom I've acquired. I think I've made enough mistakes by this point that there aren’t many that I haven't yet made that still exist."
Bando, who lives in Chagrin Falls with his wife and four children, says the fit could not be more ideal. "I was attracted to the location, the proximity to my home, and the town of Chagrin Falls," he says. "It actually reminds me a lot of Amagansett, where I worked for years."
The restaurant, originally built for Brewster and Stroud Furniture, will undergo some modest renovations before reopening in June or July. Bando is working with architect and designer Richard Lalli, who has had a hand in creating some of Cleveland's most attractive dining rooms, including Lola and Red the Steakhouse, to redesign the dated interior. The team is shooting for a cozy, pub-like vibe not unlike the Breslin at the Ace Hotel in New York.
"We're going to lighten it up a bit," says Bando. "No major construction — mostly painting and decorating."
The restaurant will seat approximately 150 in the bar, lounge and dining room. The menu is described as "contemporary American comfort foods," with prices in the $6 to $14 range for starters and $17 to $24 range for entrees. Some steak and seafood items might climb a bit higher.
Diners con look forward to a glistening raw bar platter, loaded with oysters, half lobsters, clams and shrimp. A vegetarian starter will combine crispy polenta croutons with wild mushrooms and Parmesan. Grilled halibut will be topped with chickpeas and housemade giardiniere, while duck leg confit will be paired with fresh fava beans, lemon zest and mint. A roving cheese cart will deliver all manner of stinky dairy products directly to one's table. Nightly specials will take advantage of the weekly North Union Farmers Market in Chagrin Falls. Bando says that given the community, Grove Hill will be family friendly, with a creative, kid-focused menu.
"This is right for me personally," says the chef. "I've been all over the place — to New York and back twice. It's going to be nice to settle down and focus on just one thing and make it good and have complete control over the whole ball of wax — front and back of the house included."