Tony Vallone has been the godfather of the Houston food scene for over 50 years now. He credits his success to keeping it simple, creating outstanding flavors made from the best quality ingredients handpicked by the man himself. Tony Vallone is an Italian through and through. The restaurant is, in many ways, a love letter to the food of his country.
When he started Tony’s in a modest location on Sage Road in 1965, sourcing was much more difficult, and he found getting many basic products almost impossible. Getting staples like prosciutto, risotto, or any kind of fresh seafood was prohibitively hard to do. When Tony first started serving pasta with seafood in the mid-1960s, it was a novelty to most Houstonians. His ingredients and preparations were new to the Houston food scene, but even in the beginning, they were ravenously appreciated. After some time, modern shipping techniques and importing enabled Tony to secure the ingredients he'd wanted to use all along. To make authentic Italian pasta, Tony’s uses flour from Naples and Sicilian sea salt. Tomatoes are exclusively from San Marzano. Vallone imports his own brand of rich, unfiltered olive oil from his mother’s hometown of Corleone, Sicily.
Tony's built its reputation as one of the best fine dining establishments in the city and that is still true to this day. The current building housing Tony's was built from the ground up in 2004 so that he could have an enormous new kitchen, high ceiling, and private dining rooms. As Tony's is propelled into the new era of fine dining, it is important to note that Tony's is far from a nostalgia act. The restaurant is as creative and vibrant as it was in 1965, and Houstonians are very aware of how lucky they are to have such a sublime establishment.
Cover photo courtesy of Heather Ford via Unsplash.