Today the world of Italian food and wine mourns the loss of one of its brightest stars, Tony Vallone, an Italian culinary pioneer and icon, and one of the architects of the Italian gastronomic renaissance in the U.S.
According to the Houston Chronicle, he died this week from natural causes. He was 75.
Many will remember Vallone and his landmark Italian restaurant Tony’s for the many presidents, oil executives, and celebrities he served over the decades. Every U.S. president since Lyndon Johnson ate at Tony’s. And Luciano Pavarotti and Andrea Bocelli, among many other Italian luminaries, were regular guests at his table.
But he will also be remembered for his herculean contribution to Italian food culture and foodways in Texas and beyond.
Vallone opened his first restaurant in Houston in 1965 and by the end of the 1970s he was well known as the leading Italian restaurateur in the American south. It was during that decade that he first began traveling regularly to Italy to research Italian regional cuisine for his menu. At the time, authentic Italian cookery was virtually unknown to the overwhelming majority of American food lovers. Vallone set out to change that. And his success in bringing the genuine flavors of Italian gastronomy to America was nothing short of spectacular.
In 2018, the Italy-America Chamber of Commerce South Central presented him with the inaugural Maestro Martino Award for Excellence in Italian Gastronomy and the Italian Culinary Arts.
For the occasion, Consul General of Italy Elena Sgarbi (in the photo above, left) and IACC director Alessia Paolicchi signed the following declaration and presented him with the following declaration:
In recognition of his inestimable contribution in the culinary arts and to Italian gastronomy, the Italy-America Chamber of Commerce of Texas hereby confers upon Mr. Tony Vallone the inaugural Maestro Martino Award (2018).
Mr. Vallone is a true pioneer of Italian cuisine in Texas and the United States. His celebrated career as Italian gourmet, chef, and restaurateur has helped to elevate Italian cookery, both innovative and traditional, to a fine art and science in North America.
The Italy-America Chamber commends him for his tireless efforts and his achievement of excellence.
Vallone was a titan among Italian gastronomes, gourmets, and chefs. He will be sorely missed.
The IACC would like to share its condolences with his family and the many food professionals he mentored for their loss.