The government shutdown may be over, but one Houston restaurateur still wants to show his appreciation for federal workers. Tony Vallone will open the doors to his namesake restaurant Tony's this Sunday, February 10, for a special lunch that will be free for the formerly furloughed employees and their guests. (Update 2/7: The event is now sold out.)
"It was something I was thinking about with a few friends," Vallone tells CultureMap. After explaining he felt like the employees had been forgotten about as soon as the shutdown was over, he adds, "it's something I want to do. I do a lot of charity work, but I rarely tell the press about it. I thought these people, the airport people, the security people; it's good to be remembered."
"It's our food. It's going to be a nice menu," Vallone says. "Planning menus is what I do for a living. I'm creative. I want to give them a nice, great meal."
Houston's restaurant community displayed incredible generosity during the shutdown, as dozens of establishments offered free or deeply discounted meals to people who went over a month without receiving a paycheck. Still, none are quite as luxurious as the 50-plus year old Houston institution — even in buffet mode. Sometimes, when restaurants display such generosity, it's with the hope that those who benefit from it will return for another meal at full price. Does Vallone hope some of the people he'll feed on Sunday will return for a salt-crusted snapper and a sky high soufflé?
"A lot of the things we do, that's a good part of it," Vallone says. "This is not. It's from our heart. Forget the right or left side, we need to take care of our people and pull our country back together again."
One nation under Tony Vallone's meatballs? Politicians on all sides have certainly floated worse ideas.