Tony’s celebrates 55 years

Fine dining restaurant Tony’s is celebrating 55 years of being one of the centers of the Houston socialite and celebrity scene.

Namesake Tony Vallone says don’t let the world class cusine’s A-list reputation scare you away.

“A lot of people think we’re more expensive than we are,” Vallone told Dave Ward’s Houston on abc13. “We’re no more expensive than a steakhouse. I actually enjoy meeting new diners as much as I do any of those large-time celebrities. Because when you’re a people person, you enjoy meeting people from all walks of life.”

Back in 1965, when Vallone opened the restaurants first location, he says Houstonians were not used to real Italian food. He was cooking the Neapolitan dishes he had known growing up and supplies for that cuisine were limited in the Bayou City at the time.

The place was fine with everyone – except Tony. He began to travel extensively, to experience what he calls the finer things in life. “I had to learn the hard way and give myself a diploma,” he says. He learned through “trial and error, hard work, keeping my eyes open, traveling and reading.”

Texas Monthly – July 1979 – reporter Mimi Swartz

Vallone’s hard work paid off.

In August of 1972, Tony’s moved from Sage to 1801 Post Oak Boulevard at the urging of Gerald Hines. Hines, a visionary in real estate investment, development and management, who had just opened the Houston Galleria a few years before, told Vallone he should relocate and even helped him to do so.

In 1982, Vallone was the first Texan to be inducted into the National Restaurant Association Hall of Fame.

Houston Chronicle celebrity gossip columnist Maxine Mesinger‘s coverage also helped put Tony’s on the map.

Case in point, a night in March of 1989 when channel 13 reported on a big event at the restaurant.

“It was a celebration of making comebacks, an attitude that carried over to a private party later,” anchor Shara Fryer reported that night. “Special guests like ABC’s Barbara Walters, and New York billionaires Donald and Ivana Trump had the ballroom of 1,000 people humming with a new sense of excitement. It was like the old days.”

The future President Trump was in town for a juvenile diabetes fundraiser and birthday celebration for Nellie, the wife of former Texas Governor John Connally.

Also in attendance was former President Richard Nixon, one of his first public appearances since his resignation.

Channel 13 reports that every president since Texas’ own Lyndon B. Johnson has been a patron of Tony’s. As the restaurant’s own website says, how many restaurant entrepreneurs can say they’ve served 7 sitting presidents?

In 2005, Vallone moved Tony’s to Greenway Plaza where it’s been ever since. This location, just north of the Southwest Freeway, is a location that both serves the Uptown/Galleria area and downtown.

As Vallone celebrates 55 years in business, the restaurant must deal with the harsh reality of COVID-19. Tony’s is offering free home delivery within 5 miles of its location, as well as free curbside pick-up for to-go orders.
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