By Sarah B. Smith
Famed restauranteur Vincent J. Bommarito has been in the restaurant business in St. Louis for more than 50 years. His restaurant, Tony’s, has received numerous accolades over the years, including the prestigious AAA five diamond award. Commerce Magazine sat down recently with the legendary Bommarito at the fine dining establishment that bears his father’s name.
How did you get started in the
My father started Tony’s Spaghetti House in 1946, in the Produce Row area. I had worked there one summer as a busboy. Dad died when I was in high school. I was 18 when I took over the restaurant. Before you knew it, a lifetime went by. My brother was my partner for over 35 years. He was a great partner. I couldn’t have done it without him.
How long have you been at your Market Street location?
It’s been 16 years at the current location. We moved when the football stadium (Edward Jones Dome) was built. I liked the old place. We were there for 44 years.
How has the restaurant changed
over the years?
In the 50’s, we went through a steakhouse era. We became Tony’s Spaghetti and Steakhouse, and then Tony’s Steakhouse. As tastes evolved, knowledge evolved, our focus broadened on what we wanted to be. In the late 50’s, I told someone that we would have the best restaurant in St. Louis. We just kept plugging away.”
And now there is a new generation of Bommaritos involved in the business. Tell me about them.
Vincent P. is president of the company and executive chef. Anthony is vice president and takes care of Anthony’s Bar. James is secretary/treasurer of the company and in charge of the dining room. I take care of the wines and the financial part of the business. We have a policy that we are all on the floor in the evening.
What makes Tony’s special?
When people come to Tony’s, we call them by name. We know what they like to eat and drink. We know when their birthdays or anniversaries are. We can do something they (other restaurants) can’t do—personalized attention. That is the foundation of our business.
What do you enjoy most about the
Of course, I enjoy working with my sons. I’ve also had a lot of people work for me a long time. So many people started at Tony’s and have gone on to their own restaurants. So many wonderful people. Watching these people develop has been so much fun.
How has the menu evolved over
I don’t care what kind of business it is, you have got to stay with the trends. We are
sensitive to the fact that people are eating differently, lighter. So we have specials every night. Years ago, we had two fish items, (now) 43 percent of our entrees are seafood —mostly grilled, roasted, baked.
What are some of your favorite
selections at Tony’s?
What could be better than a little light pasta first with a light clam sauce, house made ravioli, risotto with white truffles, a beautiful piece of fresh halibut or Dover sole? I love Dover sole. It is elegant in its simplicity. I like a steak once in a while. When we serve a sirloin steak here, it is the best you can get.
We are pretty good with desserts. Chocolate, chocolate torte, that’s great.
Ricotta cheesecake. We have special things according to the season.
How do you maintain Tony’s
It’s not a secret. If you want to make the best, you have to start with the best. We use the best of everything. We make every salad fresh at the table. Vegetables are cooked fresh to order. If something goes amiss, we don’t serve it.
We never forget that we start over every night. We don’t rest on our laurels.
A ballplayer bats 380 and he’s a hero.
With every guest, we earn our reputation anew. We have to bat 1,000 every night.
If something doesn’t go well at a party, it ruins my weekend.
What does a restauranteur do on
He goes to restaurants. You can always learn something.
How would you sum up your
career at Tony’s?
It is not a job, it is a lifestyle. I’ve never had a day that I didn’t want to come to work.
410 Market Street
St. Louis, MO 63102
Monday through Saturday:
Opening at 5 p.m.