The Rotary Club of Houston honored restaurateurs Donna and Tony Vallone on April 28 at the 2018 Distinguished Citizen Award Gala at the Royal Sonesta Houston. Art Rascon from ABC13 emceed the event; Rascon's wife, Patti, opened the gala with the national anthem.
“We are proud and humbled to be honored by the Rotary Club, which we wholeheartedly identify and admire [for] their work in our Houston community,” Donna and Tony Vallone said in a statement.
The Vallones have served hungry Houstonians for more than 50 years with beloved restaurants including Tony’s, Ciao Bello, and Vallone’s. Regarded as local icons for their reputation in the food and hospitality industry, the couple jointly earned the Rotary's Distinguished Citizen Award, which recognizes recipients who personify the Rotary's mission statement, "Service Above Self."
City councilor Amanda K. Edwards declared April 28, 2018 Donna and Tony Vallone Day; that might have a familiar sound to Tony, who, upon Tony's 50th anniversary in 2015, was honored by former Mayor Annise Parker with Tony Vallone Day on April 1.
This year, event chairs Lauren Walter and Ryan Lindsay said, "We wanted to honor Donna and Tony Vallone not only for their great service and impact on the city of Houston but also for the significant and positive role they have played in our individual lives."
Donna was a music teacher at T.H. Rogers School when she met Tony at the original Tony’s on Post Oak–she'd visited the restaurant in hopes of meeting its namesake to ask him for a contribution to a charity. Little did Donna know, Tony required an appointment with everyone who wished to speak with him. Donna decided to try her luck and wait at the bar. Tony agreed to meet her; on February 12, 1984, they were married.
Tony was the first Texan inducted into the National Restaurant Association Hall of Fame in 1982 and the first American-born board member of the famed Gruppo Ristoratori Italiani of Italy. He's the author of Tony’s, the Cookbook, and his second book is in the works.
Past recipients of the Rotary's Distinguished Citizen Award include Dr. Kenneth L. Mattox, Rodeo Houston, First Lady Barbara Bush, Craig Biggio, Archbishop Joseph Fiorenza, Rev. William “Bill” Lawson, George W. Strake Jr., Robert McNair, President George H.W. Bush, Houston Endowment Inc., Leroy and Lucile Melcher, The Honorable Roy Hofheinz, Houston Chamber of Commerce, George R. Brown, Dr. Michael E. DeBakey, and Ima Hogg.