Foodie Events / Restaurants

Houston’s Fine Dining Pioneer Honored With a Meal Like No Other — Celebrating the Late Tony Vallone

Chef Kate McLean Creates an Epic Meal in Memory of a Remarkable Restaurant Maestro

BY // 04.05.22
photography Andrew Hemingway

When chef Kate McLean returned to the kitchen at Tony’s as executive chef and partner in February, she had a few fresh ideas including celebrating April 1, the day that in 2015 then-Mayor Annise Parker declared as Tony Vallone Day in Houston. And so it was that on last Friday night (April 1), the Houston fine dining restaurant was packed with fans of the late chef/restaurateur as well as of the cuisine which for more than 50 years has been pleasing the city’s cognoscenti.

It was an evening celebrating Houston’s original master of fine dining and the 57 years he helmed the renowned restaurant that was long the only place in town to-see-and-be seen. In honor of Tony Vallone, Donna Vallone and McLean orchestrated a festive soirée that featured many of the late restaurateur’s favorites.

Guests were welcomed with coups of  Santa Margherita Prosecco and martini glasses with Hangar One Vodka while six-piece band The Moment filled the entire dining room with rocking sounds.

Surprises were promised and the team delivered. Guests were treated to first servings of caponata in Reggiano cups followed by Tony’s famed flaming salt-crusted red snapper with Barolo wine sauce. For the presentation, waiters paraded through the open dining room carrying platters of the flaming fish, guests applauding. From there diners had their choice of entrees including the roasted Long Island Duck and escargot and bone marrow. In the end, the lucky dinners had their choice of Tony’s favorite desserts — either apricot or tiramisu soufflés.

Margaret and TJ Farnsworth (Photo by Andrew Hemingway)
Margaret and T.J. Farnsworth at the Tony’s Day in Houston dinner celebration (Photo by Andrew Hemingway)

While guests dined there was much remembrance of great times enjoyed at Tony’s. Barbara and Charles Hurwitz recalled the great late night meals, usually following a black-tie gala, of French toast and the crispiest bacon on the planet. Houston Association of Realtors CEO Bob Hale shared tales of HAR‘s annual dinner, a continuing tradition, when the entire restaurant is filled with realtors and agents. Plastic surgeon Dr. Fred Aguilar reminisced about the special dinner celebration that he and wife Kelly hosted in Tony’s intimate wine library, the perfect place for opening his treasured bottle of a 1970 Chateau d’Yquem.

“We had our intimate wedding reception at the Post Oak Tony’s 30 years ago and I celebrated my 50th birthday party lunch the first week that the current location opened,” Sheree Frede says. “We were told that colorful feathers were found everywhere for weeks after my party. It was one for the books and the memories. Tony and staff have never failed us in the taste of the food, the ambiance, the service, and the wonderful welcome. They never disappoint.”

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The Vallone family filled one long table, including Lauri and Remo Mazzini, Lia Vallone, Donna Vallone, and Carrie and John Vallone.

PC Seen: Van and David Greenberg, Betty and Manny Leal, Norman Frede, Danielle Ellis, Denise and Sam Malone, Janeen and Julian Fertitta, Anna and Scott McLean, Tim Wilson, Elizabeth and Alan Stein, Donae and Rob Chramosta, and architect Shafik Rifaat, who designed the restaurant.

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