HOUSTON, TX – “I intend to walk out with a fish in one hand and pasta in the other,” Tony Vallon once said.

His eponymous restaurant, Tony, first opened in Houston in 1965. In half a century, it has grown from a small Italian spot into a sophisticated establishment. Tony’s has become a popular destination for guests and celebrities from around the world, including several US presidents.

But in September 2020, Houston lost its beloved “fine dining king.” Tony Vallone, who brought authentic Italian cuisine to the city and changed the restaurant landscape, has died aged 75. Now those who loved him most continue his long legacy as a trailblazer.

Vallone’s wife, Donna, worked with Kate McLean, the first woman to hold the position of executive chef at Tony’s. Together, they maintain one of Houston’s longest-running restaurants and continue to serve the classic dishes that put Tony’s on the map. But they’re also planning new innovations like the addition of a happy hour bar menu, upgraded caviar service and seasonal tasting menus, to name a few.

“That’s what we’ve always done at Tony’s. How do we innovate? How do we continue to create?” said McLean, who is the chef and partner at Tony’s. “Yes, classic things are important to keep and remember, but we are a creative place here, so she and I are often looking for ideas. We look for things we want to change and ways to grow. I know he is proud. And now we just keep doing it and moving forward, and we don’t have him in person, but we definitely have him in spirit.”

“He would be very proud of the way we work in his absence and in his honor,” Donna Vallon said. “He was always restoring, redoing, paying attention.”

The local ABC team caught up with the couple to see some of the exciting things going on in Tony’s!

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