Tony Vallone, legendary Houston restaurateur, passed away peacefully at his home on Thursday, the 10th of September 2020, in Houston, Texas. Tony was born on the 3rd of January 1945, in Houston and was raised by his loving grandmother, Maria Aiello Vallone. Tony was a second generation Italian-American, and his passion for all things Italian began at an early age. He was introduced to the kitchen by his Neapolitan grandmother, and from there, his love affair with cooking began.
From his early days in 1965 at Tony's Restaurant on Sage, to the more upscale, fine dining days on Post Oak, Tony changed the dining landscape of Houston forever. In 2005, he moved his flagship restaurant to its current location at Greenway Plaza, trading the more opulent décor for a fresher, more contemporary feel. For 55 years, Tony wined and dined local Houstonians, out-of-towners, movie stars like Sophia Loren, musicians like Luciano Pavarotti, dignitaries, and almost every U.S. President since LBJ. With his ability to source the highest quality ingredients in the world, his attention to detail, and his "fine dining but friendly" motto, Tony was able to make Houstonians feel like the world was at their feet. Today, Tony's restaurant and Catering remain at the forefront of the Houston dining scene.
In addition to his flagship restaurant, Tony owned and operated many other notable restaurants in Houston: Anthony's, Caffé Bello, Ciao Bello, Grotto, La Griglia, Vallone's, Los Tonyos, and Tony's Ballroom. Tony was an active member in the Houston community, serving on the boards of Boys and Girls Country, Memorial Hermann Foundation, Houston Methodist Hospital Foundation, UT MD Anderson Cancer Center Board of Visitors, and the Advisory Board of the Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management (Emeritus).
Although Tony the restaurateur was elegant and formal, Tony the man was much more casual. He loved the simple things and would often be found at home, watering his plants out back in his favorite white t-shirt, Italian music playing in the background, and pasta cooking on the stove. He was a man of routine from his daily work schedule to his Monday and Wednesday lunch bunches and his Saturday coffee with friends. Tony never met a stranger and loved to host his friends and family in his home. His doors were open to everyone, and he would welcome you with a big smile and an even bigger hug. Holidays at Tony and Donna's were legendary. Those lucky to experience them will forever hold memories of big family gatherings filled with hustle bustle, joy, warmth, laughter, cheer, Italian music, of course traditional Italian comfort food, and most of all, love.
For Tony, food may have been his passion, but family was his heart. Family wasn't just the most important thing, it was everything, and it started with his devotion to his loving wife. It was in 1981 when Tony's life changed forever by meeting his future wife Donna. Friends at first, but quickly life partners, Tony and Donna were married on February 12, 1984 and have been inseparable ever since. Their love story is one for the history books, and that love permeated their family. Together they raised 5 children, and to use dining words, their plates were always full and so were their hearts. He was their greatest mentor, devoted teacher, fiercest protector, and always their biggest fan. He was so proud of every one of his children and who they grew up to be. Tony is survived by his devoted wife, Donna; daughter Lauri Vallone Mazzini and husband, Remo; son Joseph Charles Vallone; son John Frank Vallone and wife, Carrie; daughter Lia Grace Vallone; and seven grandchildren. He is preceded in death by his son, Jeffrey Lester Vallone.
We would like to extend our sincerest gratitude towards the many talented doctors that Tony was lucky enough to also call his friends. In addition, to his loyal friends, colleagues and staff, without you, there wouldn't have been him, and we are truly humbled and grateful.
A memorial service honoring the life and legacy of Tony will be conducted at one o'clock in the afternoon on Monday, the 21st of September 2020, in the Worship Center of Second Baptist Church, 6400 Woodway Drive in Houston. (Kindly note that for the protection of all in attendance, current health and safety protocols are in place where masks and social distancing are required). For those unable to attend the memorial, a livestream will be accessible by selecting the link on Tony's online memorial tribute page at GeoHLewis.com.
Prior to the memorial, the family will have gathered for a private interment.
In lieu of customary remembrances, memorial contributions may be directed to: the Donna and Tony Vallone Family Endowment Fund, Attn: Joel Jaffe, Assistant Dean, University of Houston Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management, 4450 University Drive, Room 227, Houston, Texas 77204-3028.
Tony always said, ""You are only as good as your last meal."" By those standards and so much more, Tony left this world a better, and tastier, place.
Please visit Tony's online memorial tribute at GeoHLewis.com
, where memories and words of comfort and condolence may be shared electronically with his family.