Tony’s: a legacy of fine dining

HOUSTON, Texas – “I plan on going out with a fish in one hand and noodles in the other,” Tony Vallone once said.

His eponymous restaurant, Tony’s, first opened in Houston in 1965. Over half a century it grew from a small Italian restaurant to an institution of fine dining. Tony’s has become a focal point for visiting dignitaries and celebrities from around the world, including several US Presidents.

But in September 2020, Houston lost its beloved “king of fine dining.” Tony Vallone, who brought authentic Italian cuisine to the city and transformed its restaurant landscape, has died at the age of 75. Now those who loved him most carry on his long legacy as a trailblazer.

Vallone’s wife, Donna, worked with Kate McLean, the first woman to hold the position of executive chef at Tony’s. Together they keep one of Houston’s longest running restaurants and continue to serve the classic dishes that made Tony’s famous. But they’re also planning new innovations, like adding a happy hour menu at the bar, upgraded caviar service, and seasonal tasting menus, to name a few.

“It’s always been what we’ve done at Tony’s, how can we innovate? said McLean, who is executive chef and partner at Tony’s. “Yes, it’s important to keep and remember the classic things, but we’re a creative place here, so she and I bounce around a lot with ideas. We look at things we want to change and ways to grow. I know he’s proud. And now we just keep going and moving forward and we don’t have it personally but we certainly have it in spirit.

“He would be very proud of how we carry on in his absence and in his honor,” said Donna Vallone. “He was always recreating, remaking, paying attention.”

The ABCs Localish team caught up with the couple to see some of the exciting developments at Tony’s! Tony’s: a legacy of fine dining

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