Restaurants / Closings

Houston’s Original Restaurant King Suddenly Shutters Two Restaurants in Two Weeks: Now Tony Vallone Concentrates on the Place That Forever Changed Fine Dining in the City

BY // 08.02.18

First, the foodie scene said bon voyage to Vallone’s. Now, it’s ciao to Ciao Bello. Tony Vallone’s more casual Galleria-area Italian restaurant and his well regarded steakhouse in Gateway Memorial City have both abruptly shuttered in the last two weeks.

It’s a dramatic sea change for Houston’s most legendary restaurateur and fine dining pioneer — with Vallone going from a trio of restaurants to a single one faster than you can say, “Table for two, please.”

Vallone and his restaurant partner and GM Scott Sulma revealed each restaurant’s closing on the same day they shuttered, giving Vallone’s and Cia Bello fans little time for a last goodbye meal.  The duo is now switching to a Tony’s-centric strategy, according to Facebook posts, the only public comments on the closings. Tony Vallone did not return PaperCity calls, seeking further comment.

“With a continued focus on the innovations and growth of Tony’s Restaurant, it is with a heavy heart that Vallone’s Restaurant’s last service will be Friday night July, 20, 2018,” a post on Vallone’s Facebook page reads . “We thank our staff for their focus and commitment and to our guests for their continued support over the last few years.” Vallone’s stayed open for less than five years.

Hand-cut, dry- and wet-aged USDA Prime steaks were the name of the game at Vallone’s. Presentation was as key as the masterful meats, with a custom-made “Ferris wheel” cart deployed to present the daily meat selections.

And you couldn’t knock the atmosphere, with a 2,000-bottle wine wall, glass orb chandeliers and fire sculptures. But at the end of the day, that might not have been enough to compete with a new wave of flashy steakhouse newcomers closer to the center of town, especially attention grabbing hotspots such as Mastro’s and Steak 48.

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Ciao Bello’s closure was even more surprisingly, especially because it was on the list to participate in this month’s Houston Restaurant Weeks.

“For nine years Ciao Bello has been a neighborhood staple providing high quality Italian food in a warm atmosphere,” a post on the restaurant’s Facebook page reads. “It is through our great team and loyal guest that we have had such a tremendous run. It saddens us to say, that run has come to its end. Tony and Scott have decided to solely focus on Tony’s and its growth and evolution for years to come.

“Thanks to all those who have supported Ciao Bello over the years and so many thanks to our Ciao Bello family.”

Restaurant Man: Tony Vallone’s namesake restaurant turns 50 this year. (Photo by Jay Tovar)

While Ciao Bello didn’t hit the one-decade mark, and Vallone’s didn’t make it past half that, Tony Vallone goes way back. Vallone brings more than 50 years of restaurant experience. He opened the original Tony’s on Sage back in 1965, changing how people looked at Houston dining forever.

Now, as he adjusts to a new, much different Houston restaurant scene, Tony’s once again becomes his sole focus.

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