Tony Ricci and the staff at his namesake restaurant understand that many of life’s most important moments happen around a table where a great meal is being enjoyed with family and friends. For that reason, they have made it a priority to treat every guest like family. Or as Tony puts it, “Growing up in an Italian family from the old country, I learned from my mother that there is always room for one more guest at the table.”
Located at 401 West Main Street, right across from the Lexington Convention Center, Tony’s specializes in top quality steaks and seafood, with an emphasis on warm hospitality. From the moment visitors walk in the door, it is obvious that Tony’s is an establishment that cares about the quality of its food and service. Right at the hostess desk, along with menus and other information, is Tony’s personal business card. His decision to invite guests to contact him directly speaks volumes about how he chooses to run his business.
With over thirty years in the restaurant and hospitality industries under his belt, Tony opened his first steakhouse in Cincinnati six years ago, followed by the downtown Lexington location in March of last year. Since Tony’s exclusively serves dinner, they open at 5 p.m. daily. Dinner is served until 10 p.m. Tuesday – Thursday, until 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and until 9 p.m. on Sunday – Monday.
The impeccably designed restaurant is decorated in a combination of classic and modern styles. Tones of deep gray, metallic accents and neo-rustic touches like mounted deer antlers create a welcoming atmosphere. A contemporary bar lines the entire left side of the first floor, and two-story ceilings and large windows offer views of downtown activity. Since the space was once an entryway to what was once the Victorian Square shopping mall, a grand staircase takes center stage. The stairs lead to a second, spacious dining room, complete with its own kitchen and walls that can be partitioned for private parties and other special events.
The menu at Tony’s features plenty of familiar favorites, but adventurous diners will find a good deal of creative and uncommon dishes as well. Chef Thomas Mazzetti works with a variety of farmers to procure the freshest cuts of meat and produce available. Steak purists will love the selection of high quality Filet Mignon, New York Strip, Bone-in Filet, Ribeye and Porterhouse selections. According to General Manager and self-proclaimed “steak man” David Johnson, the Sir Barton (14 ounce Prime Cut New York Strip) is an excellent choice. All steaks are served with a side of Tony’s house made crispy onion straws. Steaks can be customized with a variety of toppings such as horseradish and chive butter, caramelized onions, roasted garlic butter, au Poivre, and Béarnaise sauce, to name a few.
When asked for the secret to cooking flavorful steaks, Mazzetti said, “A lot of it has to do with the broiler. It creates that nice sear that locks in all the flavors. Our broiler cooks are really good at picking the right cut for the specific temperature that is ordered. The other part is our secret blend of seasonings.” Added Johnson, “Having a quality product to begin with lends a lot as well.” So how can home cooks achieve a similar result? “It’s very important to let the meat come to room temperature before cooking,” said Mazzetti. “That will ensure an even temperature throughout. Another important step is to let the meat sit for about five minutes before serving, so the juices don’t run out all over your plate.”
Johnson commented that despite being billed as a steak restaurant, Tony’s diners have been adventurous and aren’t hesitant to choose non-steak dishes off the menu as well. Other popular entrees include a New Zealand Rack of Lamb with roasted fingerling potatoes, marinated grilled Romaine hearts and rosemary mustard sauce, Guinness-Braised Short Ribs with horseradish chive whipped potatoes and smoked tobacco onions, and Oven Roasted Chicken with crispy polenta, pan sauce and arugula.
Seafood fanatics will appreciate the variety of fresh and flavorful dishes available nightly, such as the Organic Scottish Salmon, which is seared with a crispy crust and served alongside a fresh green bean salad with hazelnuts, red onion, goat cheese and a citrus vinaigrette. The Blackened Yellow Fin Tuna is given an Asian twist with miso kohlrabi puree, seared baby bok choy, and a soy ginger emulsion. And Controller Lori Cordano’s personal favorite is the Chilean Sea Bass served on a bed of whole organic barley with caramelized onions and shaved sprouts, and maple sage emulsion.
Tony’s prepares their pasta dishes with the same passion and quality ingredients as the rest of their menu. Standouts in this category are the “Rig-a-Tony” with house ground prime strip loin and hand-cut filet, San Marzano tomatoes and pecorino romano cheese, the Pasta Pescatore, which is a mouth-watering combination of shrimp, scallops, mussels, clams, and cherry tomatoes served on a bed of linguine and topped with a lobster saffron sauce. Or for those of a vegetarian persuasion, the Bucatini Primavera – seasonal vegetables and roasted tomatoes with a savory white wine herb sauce – is sure to please.
For late night diners, a full dinner menu is served at the bar as well, with snacks and appetizers available after hours. When asked which appetizer is a current customer favorite, Chef Thomas mentioned the Jumbo Lump Crab Cake, which is prepared with spicy smoked paprika and served with mustard aioli. Those looking for something off the beaten path may enjoy the Rassati Steak Tartare, or for an always-delicious classic, an order of crispy calamari with pepperoncini, cherry tomatoes and garlic aioli are a great complement to a cold beer, glass of wine, or specialty cocktail.
Tony’s shows appreciation for their more frequent diners with programs such as the High Steaks Club and the Diner’s Club. The High Steaks Program allows diners to invest in a certain dollar amount that can be redeemed with an added bonus. There is no expiration date, and investments come with a variety of special perks such as priority reservations and the opportunity to have a favorite variety of wine permanently stored at the restaurant. Tony’s Diner’s Club program allows guests to earn points when they dine. Those points can later be used for gift cards and other rewards.
Above all, regardless if they come in for one drink or a full dinner, guests can expect to be treated like family at Tony’s. “I learned the art of hospitality from my family,” said Tony, “And our goal is to deliver fantastic food and warm service to every guest who walks in the door.”