The high and the mighty, the old guard, A-listers and newly-minted millionaires arrived at Tony's Wednesday night in waves of Mercedes Benzes, Jaguars and a Rolls Royce or two, all lining up to pay tribute to iconic restaurateur Tony Vallone. The stellar occasion was the celebration of a half century of fine dining under the revered banner of Tony's.
In a world in which eateries are short-lived more often than not, this 50th anniversary ranks as the restaurant equivalent of a uranium half life.
Vallone and his wife, Donna, welcomed a sellout throng of 320 (with a wait list of more than 200) as they entered the porte cochere rotunda which on this night was transformed into a glamorous cocktail lounge wrapped in crystal beading and peppered with vast bouquets of red roses and red crystal chandeliers. Air kisses and proseco flowed.
While paying homage to the city's leading restaurateur, the well-heeled group raised more than $400,000 for Memorial Hermann Life Flight as Vallone chose to make the milestone celebration a charitable event. Among guests were Memorial Hermann leadership including Dan Wolterman, Craig Cordola and Ileana Trevino.
"This evening means everything in the world to me," Vallone told Culturemap. "I don't know how we got here so quickly, 50 years. But I'm excited. I'm thrilled. Ready to do another 50."
Before the five course dinner was served (each course representing a decade in Tony's repertoire), Vallone shared a bit of history with the guests including the roles of Gerald Hines and the late gossip columnist Maxine Mesinger in helping put his restaurant on the map.
As for the dinner itself, Vallone noted, "We wanted to do something more nostalgic tonight with a little bit of modernization."
The menu — a mouth-watering cannelloni nod to the '70s; the flamboyant whole salt-crusted Gulf red snapper with Barolo ristretto from the over-the-top '80s; medallions of Provimi veal with Hudson Valley foie gras and Ossetra caviar reminiscing the '90s; 21st century roasted butternut squash carpaccio with Alba white truffles, pecorino, toasted pumpkin seed and mint pesto; and, for dessert, the grand bombe glacé and mignardises (macarons).
Applause, applause for chef Kate McLean and restaurant staff for creating a delicious, flawless dinner, served perfectly to each diner in the rich sea of guests that completely filled Tony's.
Every table was loaded with VIPs making each seat a primo position.
Among those raising their glasses in toast to Vallone were Janiece Longoria and Steve Lasher, Lisa and David Greenberg, Bill King, Dominique Sachse and Nick Florescu, Sheridan and John Eddie Williams, Hannah and Cal McNair, Joanna and Brad Marks, Nancy Ames and Danny Ward, Marshall Lightman, Laura and Dave Ward, Rose and Harry Cullen and family, Ann and Kenny Friedman, Fredell and Bobby Deutser, Penny and Paul Loyd, Margaret Alkek Williams, Susan and Fayez Sarofim and Soraya and Scott McClelland.