Dec 082009
Authors: Michael Kalush, Madeline Novey

Nearly four years ago, co-owners Kevin Zdenek and Richard Taranow had planned to open a small coffee cart-type shop in Fort Collins.

But in time, their simplistic idea evolved into a southern Italian-inspired restaurant, bar and coffee shop that has become, they say, essentially a “living room with good food and cocktails.”

Sitting inconspicuously on College Avenue, just south of Old Town, Café Vino represents more than a place to get drinks and late night food. It’s a place for friends, family and new acquaintances to lounge on high stools and couches bathed in warm light, reach across one another to dip into smaller, shared dishes called tapas and spend time to enjoy food and slow down.

Looking around the rich space Tuesday evening, Taranow was correct when he said on any given day anyone from 21 to 70 years old has taken a seat in the restaurant or at the curving bar.

“It just works that way,” says Taranow, a food conessuir at heart, as he sips on a glass of white wine from the restaurant’s wine cellar.

A former Collegian advertising representative and CSU graduate, Taranow compares the diversity of his customers to the way Fort Collins used to be years ago, when the town was small enough that CSU professors, students and neighbors would often run into each other at the local bars and restaurants.

And just before a steaming bowl of Prince Edward Island mussels was set at our table, Zdenek says something along a similar vain that the idea behind Café Vino was a Fort Collins-style comfort.

“Blue jeans but a dress shirt,” he says, a warm smile playing across his face as he too relaxes, swirling and sipping on a glass of red wine.

More than a restaurant, the once CSU dormitory-turned office complex has organically evolved into a community of sorts, Taranow says, opening the door to an employee gym, a hardwood yoga studio and realtor’s office on each of the building’s three floors.

And just as that feeling of community is infused throughout the physical building, it too is echoed in the personalities of Vino’s chefs, servers, bartenders, managers and its co-owners.

Both Taranow and Zdenek each shared in a few of our dishes — the bacon wrapped dates ($4 for small, $9 for large), the Prince Edward Island mussels ($11), the duck confit over potato cakes ($9 for small, $16 for large), the Guinness braised short ribs ($14) and chocolate hazelnut torte ($6.50) — casually, as if we had met there as friends to eat, drink and share life stories.

And like the two of us, Taranow and Zdenek both agreed that Vino’s intimate and comfortable culinary atmosphere is an entirely appropriate date spot.

With more than 150 wines available by bottle or glass, 20 regional and imported beers on tap and a myriad of dishes made to share, it’s inevitable that close contact and good conversation (at least about the food and drinks if the company is not satisfactory) will result.

In 20 years, Taranow and Zdenek both say they will look back at their restaurant not in terms of profits and awards but as a place, they hope, that simply brought good food and good people together.

Staff photographer Michael Kalush and News Managing Editor Madeline Novey can be reached at

Café Vino
1200 S. College Ave.
(970) 212-3399

Hours: Monday through Sunday, 7 a.m. to midnight

Offers: Breakfast and bakery: served all day
-Lunch: served from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., includes soups, salads, pizzas and warm Panini sandwiches
-Tapas: served from 4 p.m. to midnight, tapas are appetizer-sized dishes
Today: Holiday-inspired sparkling wine tasting
-Lunetta Prosecco, apples and peaches
-Segura Viudas Aria Pinot Noir, raspberry and citrus
-Wolf Blass Yellow Label Sparkling Brut, fruit and yeast
-Bricco Rielea Moscato d’ Asti, apricot

Cost: $20 per-person, call for additional information at (970) 212-3399 for additional details

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