Tony's Famous Italian celebrates a special milestone this year!
Updated: Apr 21, 2021
Over the past few weeks, we’ve been taking a look at and highlighting Old East Village businesses who celebrate some very special anniversaries this year. In the second part in this series, we shift from retail to the restaurant business and delve into how a local, family-run establishment has not only survived, but very much thrived for more than six decades in London, Ontario.
We are of course here talking about Forest City favourite, Tony’s Famous Italian, who’ve called OEV home since 1961… making this year their 60th anniversary!
Opened by the late Tony Ianni, with the help of is sister Francesca and other close family members, after moving from Calabria, Italy to Canada, the dream lives on through Tony’s son Vince who took over the restaurant ten years ago. According to him “there’s a lot of pressure to uphold what once was but at the same time, I’m so lucky to be steering this ship.”
Tony’s first opened at Dundas and Egerton Streets in 1961 in order to introduce simple but quintessential Italian dishes to Londoners. These items included pizza, lasagna, and spaghetti which were novelties to local diners at the time, a fact that seems impossible to imagine today.
People simply couldn’t get enough of this new, authentic, comforting cuisine. By 1965, Tony’s moved to and expanded in their current location at 980 Dundas. It still boasts the exposed brick dining room decorated with chianti bottles, grapes, and frescos of homeland landmarks lit with expert dimness that mimics candlelight. At this time, a second restaurant at Wharncliffe and Riverside opened and the ever-coveted Tony’s panzarotti was added to the menu!
“This style of food came with the emigration of Italians to Canada and we still have customers who come in and tell me the first time they ever tried pizza was at Tony’s!” Vince told us.
Over the years, customer loyalty has kept Tony’s at the top of the game. The restaurant has always been a place for the whole family and Vince attributes this continued success entirely to the original vision of his father.
“We saw this first generation of customers bring their kids into the restaurant, and then that generation brought in their kids and so on… you can’t simply create this, it takes time, and the continued support through generations, this is a testament to my dad and what he did.”
Over the decades, Tony’s has continued to thrive by offering great quality at reasonable prices because they know this is what families look for. As Vince noted, even before the challenging times brought on by the pandemic, they had to continually compete with growing pizza chains and more recently, delivery apps which have posed significant challenges to restaurants today.
Luckily though, Vince had the best mentor for the job and learned to be as prepared as possible for the uncertainties of the business world. In fact, although COVID was a “total curveball,” the restaurant already had in place their own delivery team as well as intensive cleaning and sanitization protocols that already fell closely in line with the new Provincial regulations. In addition to these? Tony’s has a fiercely loyal customer base that’s been in the making since the 1960s.
Now in 2021 - with three restaurant locations as well as a banquet hall - Vince confirmed that Tony’s in OEV has always been and will continue to be their HQ. In the early days, this location was in a commercial and industrial hub surrounded by factories, banks, and more. Today, continued changes to the area, including residential and commercial development, prove promising for this establishment and so many others.
If you’ve never experienced the glory that is Tony’s Famous Italian, we certainly suggest you do! As if authentic food, continued dedication to customer satisfaction, and years of experience aren’t quite enough, let’s hear from the man at the helm, regarding his very favourite item on the menu, shall we?
“That’s a tough one! But I’d have to say the lasagna which to this day uses only pasta and sauce made from scratch” Vince said shortly before confirming, however, that the unwavering customer favourite is indeed, Tony’s panzerotti!
Although dining in is not an option right now, be sure to check Tony’s out online right here to place your order for curbside pickup or delivery, you’ll be so happy you did. But, when dining in IS an option, we suggest making your way down to 980 Dundas for an experience as authentically Italian in appearance as it is in taste, and to wish the entire Tony’s team, a very happy 60th birthday!
Stay tuned for more articles in this series that highlight the Old East Village veteran businesses and in the meantime, check out our blog for all the latest and follow us on Facebook and Instagram for your daily dose of OEV!