A legend has left the Houston Restaurant Scene. On Thursday morning a representative for the restaurant Tony's confirmed that one of Houston's most recognizable and influential restaurateurs, Tony Vallone, had died at age 75.
No cause of death was given, although the family says his death was not related to Covid-19.
Vallone was born and raised in the Third Ward and began working in kitchens at age 12. He opened his first restaurant, named Tony's, in 1965, on Sage Road, focusing on casual everyday Italian food. Vallone presided over his restaurant with exuberance and charm, attracting guests from across the city, including the late famed Houston developer Gerald Hines. That relationship led to a larger, more refined fine dining incarnation of Tony's on Post Oak Boulevard.
For decades Tony's on Post Oak was Houston's place to be seen. The city's socialites regularly held parties at the restaurant, while guests included notables like Richard Nixon. Vallone went on to open more concepts over the years, including Anthony's, Grotto, and La Griglia, but while those places had their moments—they've since either closed or been sold—none of these other endeavors ever developed the cultural cachet or staying power of the famed Post Oak restaurant. In 2005 Tony's moved once more, to Greenway Plaza, and while the location changed, the restaurant's place in the Houston society scene never budged.
He also had a sharp eye for culinary talent. Through the years he also hired some of the city's most dynamic young chefs, including current executive chef Austin Waiter. Donna Vallone, Tony's wife of 36 years, says she'll continue the Tony's legacy. The restaurant, which is in its 55th year of operation, has weathered plenty of economic downturns over the years, Vallone had stated in recent interviews, but he'd noted that the downturn due to the Covid-19 pandemic had been unlike anything he'd ever been through. However, Tony's was making it with Vallone's leadership, and now it will be up to Donna Vallone and his carefully selected staff to carry on. The restaurant will re-open next Tuesday with Waiter and general manager Eric Pryor continuing service.
"I've lost the love of my life and best friend, but I will continue Tony's legacy," said Donna Vallone.
A memorial service will be held at a later date, with details to come.