Italy Comes to Buckner!
Jun 11, 2015
Tuscono's Brings New Flavor to Area
Walking into Tuscono’s is like entering a quaint restaurant in Italy. Beautiful wood floors and exposed brick walls line the interior, while a striking courtyard showcases the exterior. So, how did such an extravagant eatery makes its way to Buckner? Kirk Kellough, owner of Tuscono’s, sat down with The Buckner Clarion to explain how three years of hard work paid off.
When he and his wife Rene embarked on this new business venture, they had no idea how much time, sweat and effort it would take to pull it off. However, Kellough said they never once thought about giving up, and the community’s support had a large part to do with preserving their entrepreneurial spirit. “We are dedicated to Buckner and we love Buckner. We wanted to add something that would assist the community,” he said. “Once we got this project going, the City saw what we were doing and they rallied behind us, eventually deciding to move City Hall here. That move improved and added to this street.”
Though the finished structure is new, the finishes within Tuscono’s have maintained the character and integrity of an older establishment, which is exactly what the Kellough’s were after. From the floors and walls, to the ceiling and all the finishes in between, nearly every surface in Tuscono’s is refurbished.
The Kellough’s invested in the main building that Tuscono’s is centered in, but also used the empty shell of a collapsed structure next door to make one cohesive restaurant. “My wife and I framed both buildings, and installed the wood floors found throughout. The wood is 150-year-old Southern Pine and it took us six months to finish installation. We hand scraped all the tongues and grooves and then put it all back down,” he said. “All the trim is Southern Pine also, and it came out of an old school in Iowa. It was actually used as the bleacher seats.”
Years ago, the Kellough’s purchased a building near Napoleon, Mo., which was full of old wood. Never knowing how they would use all of that wood, he said it now feels like fate that they stumbled across it. “The lumber had been reclaimed and sitting for over 30 years. And we had no idea what use we would get out of it. So, it is almost like we were destined to have that wood.”
Tuscono’s now houses that wood, which Kellough said is nearly unrecognizable, in its floors and table tops. “The wood was in brutally rough shape, but we were after something that was out of the ordinary and had character. That way, when someone comes in, they will feel good about where they are at,” he said.
The woodwork was not the only feature of Tuscono’s which required some time-intensive labor. “When we got the building, these exposed brick walls had plaster covering them. So, my wife and I painstakingly knocked all the plaster off, then we used a soda blaster to get them clean. It took 750 pounds of course baking soda, but it gave us the look we were after,” Kellough said. “We also took two years to find the wrought iron fence outside, which was at a house in St. Joseph, Mo. We had to go there and remove it, then we restored it. We took no shortcuts. We just didn’t get in any hurry.”
The Kellough’s agreed Buckner was always where they wanted Tuscono’s to be, as it was once home for them. “My wife and I are from here and we always thought owning a restaurant would be a fun business. And Italian food is what we are both really driven to. It is also something that was just different to the area, and we wanted that interesting appeal,” Kellough said.
Having been in business for themselves since the early ‘80s, the Kellough’s know a thing or two about what it takes to own a successful establishment. And with this project, pulling out all the stops was the only option. “The most unique thing about Tuscono’s is the quality of food. I called the three-time world champion pizza makers in Staten Island, NY and went there to work alongside them for a while, getting their recipes and procedures down. So, the food and recipes we use here are world-class – there is nobody else doing it better,” Kellough said.
The menu at Tuscono’s is centered on Kellough’s experience in New York, with wood fired pizza and pasta being staples. Other enticing items on the menu include several types of salads, sandwiches, soups, salmon, chicken, wines, desserts and, of course, freshly baked bread.
“With the ingredients on our menu, we did not settle for what was cheap. We went for the best we could get. And our wood fired brick oven was built from scratch, with the help of a friend who is a brick mason. The beauty of a wood fired brick oven is the flavors are way better because it cooks everything so quick that the flavors get sealed in,” Kellough said.
To add to the top-notch menu at Tuscono’s is a hefty staff of 35, all hired locally. Kellough is confident the benefits Tuscono’s brings to the Buckner community far exceeds just jobs. “It will be a good tax income for the City, and serve as a convenient place to eat, without having to drive too far. We have good customer service and high quality, authentic food, so it is going to be hard to beat. I would not want to be our competition,” Kellough joked. “Even the surrounding towns only have chain Italian restaurants. I think everybody is tired of the chains. Independence is the same way. We are wanting this to be a destination that helps bring tourism to Buckner.”
Reflecting on the journey he and his wife have been on the past three years, referring to their experience as an “exciting challenge,” Kellough said the most rewarding part of it all is seeing their dream restaurant bring joy to locals who now frequent it. And though Kellough said he would like to turn Tuscono’s into a franchise someday, he is in no hurry to branch out just yet. However, he does have some motivating advice to offer those who may be cautious about opening up their own restaurant.
“Don’t hesitate - just jump in! If you feel like it’s something that you want to do, don’t be afraid. The worst you could do is fail. My wife and I have not shied away from anything, and although the learning curves in a new business are steep, anybody can do it if they want it bad enough.”
Tuscono’s is located at 312 S. Hudson St. and is open Monday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. For more information, call 816.650.8284, or “like” Tuscono’s on Facebook: www.Facebook.com/Tusconos