1212 tony's spaghettiTony’s Spaghetti House Manager Will Kirk and Owner Tony Falletta.
Vestavia’s longtime Italian staple Leonardo’s was perhaps best known for one thing: rolls served warm covered in garlic butter, cheese and spices. Now the same man who baked them there for 13 years is making them daily in Brook Highland Plaza at the new venture of Leonardo’s’ owners.
“On a really busy day, we will go through 100 pounds of flour to make the rolls,” said Tony Falletta III, who owns the new Tony’s Spaghetti House with his son, Tony IV. “Our problem is people eat too many rolls and have to take half of their meal home.”
For longtime Mexicali customers, the new restaurant space feels familiar but has obviously had a classy facelift. The owners painted the walls red, brought in new black booths, removed, the thatched roof on the bar and added a funky, multicolored chandelier over the piano in the front room. There, like at Leondardo’s, a pianist and accordion player perform live on Friday and Saturday nights.
The Fallettas closed Leonardo’s in June and opened here at the first of November, where they felt they would have more traffic. They also streamlined the menu selections and cut prices.
“We are trying to establish a family-friendly place that has good food for your money,” Falletta said.
Customers will find the most popular dishes from Leonardo’s — Spaghetti ($9.99), Ravioli ($11.95), Eggplant Parmesan ($11.95), Chicken Piccata ($12.99), Chicken Pesto ($13.99), to name a few — on the menu at Tony’s. Higher priced menu items from Leonardo’s like lobster tails and filet mignon are not on the regular menu but will rotate through as specials.
Other specials will include more labor-intensive items like Stuffed Artichokes, steaks chargrilled and then broiled with a seasoned breadcrumb crust and New Orleans Bread Pudding with Jack Daniels Whiskey Sauce.
Pizzas and calzones are baked in a new stone pizza oven in any variety including favorites Tony’s Last Supper (pepperoni, sausage, mushroom, onion, bell pepper, black olives, banana peppers and fresh basil) and SPO (sausage, peppers and onions).
A new Jumbo Pretzel appetizer, made with bread dough and then served salted, with garlic Parmesan or with cinnamon sugar, is already popular only a few weeks into business.
Other new menu items include a crab cakes appetizer and Italian salad with grilled marinated chicken or shrimp. In the pasta realm, there is penne with marinara, grilled eggplant, roast beef and shaved Parmesan as well as a primavera with chicken or shrimp, vegetables and alfredo sauce.
For dessert, Manager Will Kirk said JoAnn’s Chocolate Cake, made by the owner’s wife, is a must-try. The Sicilian chocolate bundt cake is studded with Ghirardelli chocolate chips and served warm with vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup. Italian favorites cannoli and tiramisu are also on the menu.
The owners hope to continue other Leonardo’s traditions like special opera nights and wine tasting dinners. They also offer catering; to learn more about their options, call the restaurant.
Falletta is proud of the black and white photos of his family around the restaurant. His favorite is a picture on the back wall of his grandmother, Josephnie Cefalu, in a white dress for her first communion at St. Paul’s Cathedral downtown. Moving to the left, he points out photos of his and his wife’s parents on their wedding days as he talks about how his mom and grandmother were the cooks for his first restaurant, the namesake for the new restaurant.
The original Tony’s Spaghetti House opened in the 1970s near Eastwood Mall and served the same family recipes from Sicily that the new Tony’s serves.
And those recipes were served by Falletta’s father, who ran a restaurant while he also worked as a photographer for The Birmingham News for 40 years. He would also cook spaghetti for up to 500-1,000 people for fundraisers for various organizations. The family sauce is made Sicilian style with sweet basil and sugar, a version more sweet than those from other regions of Italy.
Tony's can be reached at 783-1388.