Remembering my friend, Tony
Tony Vallone has been a part of my life for so long that I can’t remember when it started. I knew of him, because he bought a piece of property on Sage Road that was previously owned by my husband. But, it was on Post Oak Blvd. that I learned to appreciate fine, “fancy” food and experience dramatic dining experiences.
I had enjoyed spectacular cuisine a few times in New York during my modeling years ..at restaurants of bygone years … LuTece and LeCirque. But, it was right here in my beloved Houston at Tony’s Restaurant with Tony Vallone that I learned to truly appreciate fine dining.
Ah, there are so many experiences with Tony to remember and to cherish.
I asked Tony for so many things for charity that I could never possibly recount them here. Without hesitation, his response was always a “yes.” I asked him to become the head judge of all the Gourmet Galas I chaired for March of Dimes. This is just one of many things I asked him to do. He cooked on The Warner Roberts Show on numerous occasions, sometimes with Vic Damone, other times with Shelly Winters, Della Reese or my mom.
Tony’s was always my “home base” to invite people for lunch to ask them to help on some particular charity. My feeling was that, if we were there at Tony’s in such beautiful surroundings with such exquisite cuisine, how could they refuse my requests. It worked so many times.
When I produced a cookbook for mom, “Supermom’s Country Cookin’ Cookbook,” I had the announcement party at Tony’s and asked Tony to duplicate selected recipes from the book. My mother, Ophelia, was a great cook, born in Nacogdoches. Tony made this the most amazing party, featuring mom’s down-home recipes. I remember no one wanted to leave.
It was at Tony’s where we:
- announced son Cliff’s engagement to Angie Estes
- hosted a “Baby” gala for son, Bobby and wife, Kristin to announce they were expecting. Everyone dressed as babies, and Tony allowed that to happen!
- had a big luncheon for Bobby and Kristin to introduce Bobby III, age two, to friends, as he ran all over the restaurant
- celebrated graduation for grandsons, Cliff and Lee, and too many birthdays and anniversaries to mention
What an adventure it was just to be at Tony’s. On any given night you might see Farrah Fawcett, Rock Hudson, Mitzi Gaynor, Jaclyn Smith, Andrea Bocelli or a myriad of celebrities and notables. The last dinner I had with the famous Houston Chronicle social columnist, “Miss Moonlight” Maxine Mesinger, was when I was chairing an event with Lu Caltagirone for the American Heart Association. Guests included John and Nellie Connally, Carol Channing, Jack Valenti and Liz Carpenter, author, who was known as the “wittiest woman in the Great Society.” She barely got a word in that evening. But, of course, every word was published in Maxine’s “Slow Down for the Lowdown” column.
I launched The Social Book in 1996, nee The Houston Calendar of Social Events, of course at Tony’s. Tony and Donna were there supporting in every way. My associate and great friend, Scott Evans and I had been up almost all the night before, actually putting the book together. When Scott arrived at the restaurant, a line of cars was backed up on Post Oak for a mile. Scott’s dad never got in the door because we had such a crush of people. Packed to the rafters, Tony and Donna were unruffled, and the day proceeded to a great conclusion.
I cannot begin to mention all the amazing parties and events I attended at the Post Oak location and also at the Richmond location. One could never list all the accolades, awards, citations and honors that Tony received throughout the 55 year existence of his storied restaurant. What I know is that we have lost a culinary legend, a true Houston Treasure and I, along with so many others, have lost a dear friend.
The good news is that Tony’s beautiful wife, soul mate, constant helpmate, business partner and love of his life of 35 years, Donna, has determined to carry on the Tony’s Restaurant tradition of excellence, maintaining the highest standards of cuisine and service that were set, lo those many years ago. Thank you for everything, Tony. And, thank you, Donna. Godspeed.