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On Wednesday of last week, more than 300 guests gathered at Tony’s on Richmond to celebrate Tony Vallone’s fifty years as a restaurateur in Houston.
The gala charity event raised more than $400,000 for Life Flight, Houston’s “critical care air medical transport service.”
Writing for CultureMap, socialite columnist Shelby Hodge called it the “best benefit dinner ever.”
“The menu,” wrote Shelby, was “a mouth-watering cannelloni nod to the ’70s; the flamboyant whole salt-crusted Gulf red snapper with Barolo ristretto from the over-the-top ’80s; medallions of Provimi veal with Hudson Valley foie gras and Ossetra caviar reminiscing the ’90s; 21st century roasted butternut squash carpaccio with Alba white truffles, pecorino, toasted pumpkin seed and mint pesto; and, for dessert, the grand bombe glacé and mignardises (macarons).”
When guests sat down for dinner, Tony reminisced about the early days of his restaurant.
It was back in 1965, he recounted when he took the mic, that he answered an ad for “a $500-a-month rental for a small wooden-framed restaurant where the Galleria now stands on Sage road.”
The landlord? Developer Gerald Hines.
“In those days,” Tony told the crowd, “there were no refrigeration trucks. You couldn’t get fresh clams. You couldn’t get fresh mussels. Either you used canned or you used [gulf] oysters. That was all we had here. For calamari, I had to go to a bait camp to buy it because it wasn’t sold [in food shops].”
“There weren’t many Italian restaurants here in Houston in the 1960s. They were mostly American. And so you didn’t get pasta and seafood. When I started cooking these dishes, which Neapolitans had been doing for centuries, it was new here and it clicked.”
“This was the point of the original Tony’s. A very small and very Italian restaurant.”
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