One of Houston's most prominent Italian restaurants won't be participating in Houston Restaurants Weeks this year. Ciao Bello, Tony Vallone's casual Italian restaurant, announced on Facebook that it would close after service on August 1.
Closing Ciao Bello is the second setback in the last two weeks for Vallone, who shuttered his Memorial-area steakhouse Vallone's on July 20. The sudden closure meant diners only had a few hours to contemplate a final meal at what had been a neighborhood favorite for close to 10 years.
When it opened in 2009, Ciao Bello became the spiritual successor to Grotto, Vallone's legendary pizza and pasta spot that had been sold to Landry's, Inc. The restaurant allowed Vallone to serve authentic, Italian-inspired fare in a more casual atmosphere (and a lower price point) than Tony's. It also served as the home of some serious culinary talent, including Michael Dei Maggi (Max's Wine Dive, The Rockwood Room) and Bobby Matos (State of Grace), who earned a CultureMap Tastemaker Awards Chef of the Year nomination in 2015 for his work at Ciao Bello.
As the Facebook post notes, Vallone and his business partner Scott Sulma intend to turn all of the attention to Tony's, Vallone's 50-year old fine dining institution. That restaurant has been riding high under the direction of chef de cuisine Austin Waiter, who Sulma praised in a recent CultureMap feature.
“His ability to create and use ingredients and products with purpose is unmatched in the 14 years I’ve been with Tony,” Sulma said. “Where one chef sees the need for nine ingredients for a dish, Austin sees five. That’s something that takes years to learn.”
Diners will definitely miss Ciao Bello, but hopefully the prospect of Vallone and Sulma focusing all of their attention on Tony's bodes well for its continued success.