A Classic, Revisited

With an assist from a rising-star chef, fine-dining standard-bearer Tony’s gets fresh for fall.

Josh Aguilar
IMG_8411
IMG_8411

On an unusually crisp day, deliverymen pop out of produce trucks, hauling pumpkins up the oak-shaded sidewalk and into the dining room of Tony’s, infusing the iconic restaurant with seasonal warmth. Meanwhile, Tony Vallone himself, dressed as the power player he is, in a fine Italian suit, greets diners. While there’s something routine about this moment — the cusp of each autumn at Tony’s must look something like this tableau today, year after year — what’s happening behind the scenes is modern and exciting.


“Mr. Vallone is always firing on all cylinders,” says Austin Waiter, the tall and good-looking 25-year-old chef de cuisine. While there are decades between them, the duo brings a wealth of knowledge to the proverbial table. Waiter, who began as a Tony’s extern while at the Culinary Institute of America and now finds himself rising quickly in the city’s food world, collaborates with Vallone on everything from sourcing truffles from Alba and mushrooms from The Netherlands to dreaming up new dishes on Tony’s extensive three-, five- and seven-course tasting menus. “We sip ristrettos and throw ideas around on how to keep our dishes memorable. His culinary knowledge is truly amazing and continues to grow.” The cross-generational education seems to go both ways, as, for his part, Vallone has picked up the art of Instagramming pics of Tony’s dishes to a new generation.

This dynamic collaboration has resulted in an inventive new seasonal menu, touting items like the heirloom tomato tonnato, a spinoff of an Italian classic. Traditionally produced by blending cognac, preserved tuna, capers and olive oil, this one also introduces kaffir lime leaves and Calabrian chili. Colorado lamb chops are paired with farro and imported bluefoot mushrooms, and dressed with a sauce made from roasted lamb bones and fresh berries. “As Mr. Vallone says, sauces are the backbone to any great kitchen,” notes Waiter. “We pride ourselves on sauce work.”

And, on any given evening, you may expect the salt-crusted snapper to be ablaze at a table nearby, but what you may not expect is the new flambé foie gras dessert. Waiter throws bourbon on it and lights it on fire, bringing the kitchen’s process into the dining room. This is Tony’s today: harmonious and picture-perfect, just as you’d as expect it to be — but with fun, unexpected flashes.

Food+Travel
Duos, Trios and Teams: ‘Next-Generation’ Mother-Daughter Leppert Duo Debuts

Clare Leppert and Clementine, the Cavachon. Leigh Leppert and Benny, the Bernedoodle.

HOW DID YOU come together as a team? This fall, we are celebrating the introduction of an exciting real estate collaboration between Clare Leppert, longtime Houston Realtor®, and daughter Leigh Leppert. Clare shared a 20+ year real estate partnership with her mother, Bette Carpenter, until Bette’s death in 2016. Having worked solo for several years, Clare in 2021 was awarded Houston Business Journal’s No. 2 Luxury Realtor® in Houston. Leigh, who has been working in marketing for the past decade, has always shared a passion for real estate and watched Clare successfully balance family and career. We are excited to re-create the next generation of a mother-daughter duo at Compass!

Keep ReadingShow less

Ben Berg (photo by Douglas Burns)

THE NEW YEAR has already yielded its fair share of tastebud-tingling headlines — and here's a few more! From a prolific restaurateur's big announcement to a Houston institution's ambitious expansion, catch up on all the latest below.

Keep ReadingShow less
Food

Wiley's 'Judith and Holofernes'

THE ENERGY IN the foyer of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston’s Caroline Wiess Law Building is quite lively, thanks to the installation of two provocative paintings, painted 400 years apart — one by Artemisia Gentileschi, an Italian 17th-century female artist, the other by Kehinde Wiley, a contemporary, Nigerian-born queer Black artist. Each depicts the grisly climax in the Old Testament Book of Judith, in which the widow Judith decapitates the Assyrian general Holofernes, thus saving her besieged Jewish city of Betulia.

Keep ReadingShow less
Art + Entertainment