John Ondo didn’t know what a grit was until some time in high school. It’s a wonder this charismatic native son ever became a chef, let alone the celebrated proprietor of Lana, one of “the Holy City’s” best-loved, long-standing local establishments.

“The Italian lifestyle is my personal taste,” says Ondo. “It’s so clean, and so simple. Why ‘junk up’ ingredients with complicated flavors when the essence of a dish is revealed so naturally? You take ripe tomatoes, basil, and olive oil – need I say more?” Returning to Charleston, he extended his Italian education with a lot of book-learning and hands-on experience in several prominent Italian kitchens. His unpretentious presentations of “just good food” got their own showcase when Ondo launched Lana in the unlikely, off-the-beaten path Charleston neighborhood of Cannonborough, in 2005. His personal spin on Mediterranean cuisine has been evolving ever since.