As we speak, the 22-person staff of Tapino Kitchen & Wine Bar is meeting at Cowboy Ciao, learning the sad news that Saturday night was the last dinner service for the five-year-old Scottsdale eatery.
Chef-owner James Porter mostly blames the economy, but also says he's had issues with the landlords at the Scottsdale Promenade complex.
"We've been in constant disagreement about how they do business," he says.
Open since July 2004, Tapino was a large restaurant -- which became a detriment when the economy went sour. PR director Wendy Goldman noticed that a lot of the seats went empty over the past several months.
"Usually in the winter is when we start gathering our nuts to survive the summer, but this past January, February, March -- there just wasn't enough," she says. "The reality is, we just need to change our business model."
Porter says he's still moving forward with his plans to launch an affordable bistro, Petite Maison, at Scottsdale Road and Shoeman Lane.
"It's good chef therapy," he says of the new project, adding that he and his dad built 90 percent of Tapino's interior. He expects to start construction within the next two weeks, and is aiming to open on Bastille Day (July 14). He also plans to continue hosting his periodic Locavore events, and catering.
Right now, the thing that's weighing most on Porter is his staff.
"I've got an amazing team that has always believed in my vision," he says. "This is emotional."
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