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Small plates, big tastes

Melissa Topey • Apr 24, 2014 at 5:40 PM

Don’t let the concept of “small plates” fool you — this place has big ambitions.

Cielo Grande Tapas Restaurant and Bar opened in Port Clinton last week, bringing the world of tapas to this city on the lake.

Tapas restaurants serve small portions, or “small plates” of appetizers and other delicious items. Cielo Grande also has a few entrees.

“The food is amazing” said Alexis Kohlman, one of the managers. “We have a very nice wine list, specialty drinks and about 10 beers on tap that will rotate frequently. It’s all very cozy, very comforting.

“We’re finding people who are coming in don’t just eat and leave,” she said. “They sit down and make an evening of it”

Kohlman’s grandfather, Bill Van Der Giessen, owns the restaurant. He also owns 1812 Food & Spirits and Rosie’s Bar & Grill, and he owned the Nor’Easter Club on Catawba Island for 17 years until he sold it four years ago.

When he was presented with the chance to operate a tapas restaurant in Port Clinton, he couldn’t pass it up.

“I think it’s an opportunity to add that to our inventory of what we’re doing for downtown Port Clinton,” Van Der Giessen said. “I believe in the revitalization of Port Clinton”

Van Der Giessen is a developer, too. He was a partner in the Catawba Bay development of condos and singlefamily homes, and he’s involved in the development of condos on Sand Hill.

“The secret to business? I’ll tell you,” Van Der Giessen said. “Good business, good people. Bad people, bad business”

Following this recipe, Van Der Giessen has recruited talented head chef Chris Schaffer, who joined Cielo Grande from 1812 Food & Spirits.

Schaffer suggested the tapas concept, which is gaining popularity. The staff is trained to offer top-notch customer service, Kohlman said.

Said Van Der Giessen: “Cielo Grande is going to be tremendous”

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