Tony's was voted the runner up for best legacy restaurant in St. Louis in the 2015 Feast 50. This Q&A was conducted with executive chef Vincent P. Bommarito, Jr.
Tell us about a few of the signature dishes served at your restaurant, and how they embody your work. Dishes on Tony’s menu span from established house classics to new recipes that pave the way to the future. The Lobster Albanello with chunks of lobster and mushroom has been a guest favorite for years. It’s a classic, well-done menu item. I like to combine tradition with new trends and ingredients to create menu items with a twist.The fettuccine duck confit with wild mushrooms utilizes classic ingredients, but it is prepared in a unique way. We prepare it with duck stock and pair it with homemade fettuccine noodles, wild mushrooms and spinach. This is a light dish because there is no dairy incorporated. The dish combines evolving tastes and trends with traditional ingredients.
What have been some milestones in your career so far? Tony’s was named one of the “100 Best Restaurants in America” by OpenTable in 2013. We were the only restaurant in Missouri to win the designation. Also, Tony’s was voted “Best Service” by OpenTable in 2011. In 2014, Tony’s was named Restaurant of the Year by a local publication [St. Louis Magazine]. Every accolade we’ve received is extremely special to the entire Tony’s family. In 2014, Tony’s completed comprehensive renovations that included new flooring, lighting and expanded bar. That was a huge milestone in my career because I contributed to the overall design of the restaurant. The remodel was a welcomed challenge, as we respected tradition but kept an eye towards the future.
Clearly your work has resonated with diners – what would you attribute this to, and what does it mean to you? From the beginning, we’ve worked to provide guests with a complete dining experience. Vince J. Bommarito, Sr., my dad, taught us that it isn’t simply about the food. We start over every day because we are only as good as the last dining experience we served. It means we treat guests like family. Diners really enjoy seeing my dad on a nightly basis while he chats with guests about everything from how they like their meal to how their children are doing. It truly is a family affair. My brother James runs Tony’s front-of-house and my brother Anthony runs front-of-house for Anthony’s Bar and manages our wine. My sister Lucy is involved with Tony’s A.M. and I am the executive chef. We’re all working to connect with customers and welcome them with a delightful culinary experience.
What do you hope to see happen next in the local food scene, and why? I would love to see a shift of focus from the kitchen to the service in the dining room. We’ve applauded chefs and tipped our hats to the bartenders, but I’d like to see the maître d’ become a bigger part of the scene. Back in the day, diners would come in, say hello and give thanks to the maître d’!
Whether it’s developing a dish or an entire food or drink menu, where do you get your inspiration? What inspires you and motivates you to do that work that you do? I’m inspired by conversations with friends, foodies and other chefs. When I’m talking about food and wine, ideas start to come to life. I like cooking with friends and testing new ideas. Seasonal vegetables and fruit also inspire, from truffles to quinces, it’s all motivating.
What’s next for you and your work? We just started an exciting new endeavor, Tony’s A.M. We already had Anthony’s Bar for lunch and dinner, but Anthony’s isn’t a fast-casual restaurant. Tony’s A.M. is fun because there weren’t any guidelines to begin with. It was a clean slate to build out and everything aligned at the right time so we jumped at the opportunity. The restaurant offers a full breakfast and lunch menu with fresh soups, salads and specials each day. My sister Lucy is running Tony’s A.M. and she’s doing a wonderful job. I prepare a full breakfast and lunch menu daily.
Tony's, 410 Market St., Downtown, St. Louis, Missouri, 314.231.7007, tonysstlouis.com