By Sondra Katkin
“It’s impossible to be monogamous when you own a restaurant.” Tony Ricci of Tony’s was not making a scandalous statement, but referring to the passion a restaurateur must have to achieve the high standards he maintains. For great steak and outstanding seafood, Tony’s will satisfy and gratify. I was so impressed after my previous visit, I brought friends and family there to celebrate my birthday last summer. The food was as wonderful this time. Harvey Germain, Ricci’s new, creative chef has adapted Tony’s standards to his beautiful presentations and delicious flavors. Needless to say, the steaks were perfect with a seasoning that required no tweaking. They are chosen from prime midwestern cattle. Ricci explained that there is a better quality of beef raised in the areas close to us because the animals aren’t strained from the prevalent heat and sun out west. “Our strip is the best in town. The quality of prime beef we buy is the absolute best from the best sources,” he noted.
Ricci grew up in an Italian family and loved watching his mother’s pleasure while serving wonderful food to her family. He has inherited the nurturing gene. When my gigantic strip was served, he actually cut it for me, and was pleased with my reaction. Of course it was time “stoppingly,” crescendo “playingly,” consummately worth consuming. Perfectly cooked and seasoned with the flavor that only prime beef can deliver, its moist steak “liquors” were almost dizzying. “Enquirer” food critic, Polly Campbell commented that the steak had “flakes of salt in the crust that provoked the taste buds as the meat satisfied them. It was an excellent steak.” What a supreme delight to have the top of the line done so well.
Tony’s 10 ounce hamburger is a mix of the same prime beef — 30 percent tenderloin, 70 percent strip. It’s topped with a unique and savory herb aioli of mayonnaise, garlic, parsley, cilantro, green onion, chives and a subtle touch of anchovy paste. Chef Germain, who praises his mom’s Passover seders as “second to none,” encases the huge patty in a traditional brioche of challah. I gave him the pronunciation test on the “ch” in challah and he scored 100 percent. He said that Tony is a “mencsh” to work for. Tony replied, “Harvey and I make a good team. He’s a very creative chef and has done some wine dinners that were absolutely fantastic.” The burger was rated among the top two in Cincinnati by Paul Dougherty, “Enquirer” sports writer. My husband Steve and I shared it, but he couldn’t have the challah (he must be gluten free). We agreed it had a rich, moist, meaty flavor that most slim slivers of ground beef can’t approach. For me, hamburger rolls have long been objectionable, flawed, flavorless fillers of doughy white paste that I immediately strip to save the calories. But this wonderful challah, with its sweet crust and fluffy body, was the correct cover to complete but not compete with the quality of the burger. The accompanying french fry truffle wedges truly taste of truffles with more body and crispness than any fries I’ve experienced. Germain explained that “they are fried at low heat, then higher heat after they ‘rest.’ We try to perfect our craft here so it becomes art.”
The seared yellow fin tuna was memorable on my last visit, tasting similar to Steve’s filet. They probably used the same wonderful steak seasoning on the thick (about three inches) portion. This time the chef prepared Chilean sea bass that was seared in hot oil just before its flash point, giving it a caramelized surface, then finished in the oven. It was complemented by scallion, frisee and cilantro with a “veil” of cardamom subtly imparting their flavors to the fish. A sweet corn puree was a piquant base for the bass. My fork just fell through the moist, perfectly prepared “poisson” (fish). Its sweetness rivaled the corn, creating an excellent partnership. Other entrees include organic Scottish salmon, oven roasted chicken, rack of lamb and a wide variety of steaks and chops with six succulent toppings to choose from.
The restaurant is also known for its high quality salads; Tony puts great emphasis on fresh preparation. Pastas are also prominently featured on the menu with the authentic feel that only an Italian mother can give. There may even be a gluten free selection in the near future since the chef and Tony have close relatives who can’t eat gluten. They are sensitive to allergy limited diners and will accommodate them.
Don’t skip dessert. It’s no wonder Tony’s mother’s cannoli recipe won “Best of Cincinnati.” A crisp shell surrounding a dream cream, it’s superior to the ones I tried in Boston’s Italian pastry shops. A new dessert Chef Germain recently added to the menu is a fruity masterpiece that was still unnamed. Dice shaped pieces of caramelized apple gleam like gems in a flaky half shell. The rum glaze is so good you will pause to let it melt over your taste buds. A whipped white cream mousse adds an extra richness. This dessert will be the peak of pleasure from a perfect repast.
An equivalency of elegance exists between the food and the decor. The dining room has high ceilings with art deco accents. There are tall white booths and white banquettes on the sides, and sleek dark chairs and tables in the center. The spacious granite topped bar with its own menu of gourmet appetizers and heartier fare shares the music area with the restaurant. Guests will enjoy soft jazz enhanced by a dark mahogany piano on Wednesday through Saturday evenings. Happy hour discounts are Monday to Friday, from 4 – 8 p.m. The restaurant also offers a large, lovely room for private parties.
Being a bit directionally challenged, I relied on a Google map and found it lacking. Tony said that the best and simplest way is to proceed north on Montgomery Road from Harper’s Point. I left during heavy evening traffic and reached 275 in about five minutes. It’s not quite two miles and no turns necessary. Tony’s is open Monday to Thursday from 5–10 p.m., on Friday and Saturday from 5–11 p.m., and on Sunday from 5–9 p.m.
12110 Montgomery Road
Montgomery, OH 45249