The secret to a perfectly charred pizza crust with caramelized toppings, according to restaurateur Tony Ciola, is the oven.
Tony uses a hearthstone oven that burns anthracite coal at nearly 1,000 degrees at Tony C’s Pizza | Wine Bar, which has locations in Avery Ranch and Bee Cave. Tony opened the Bee Cave restaurant in 2008 with the help of his father and business partner, Dan. Tony said the family’s history in restaurants goes back six decades and owes its start to his grandfather’s stint as a pitcher for the Philadelphia Athletics.
“My family first got in the restaurant business in 1949 in Virginia Beach. My [great]uncle Dominick started his restaurant on a loan he borrowed from my grandfather [Louis] with the money he made playing Major League Baseball,” Tony said. “That restaurant was open for 60 years.”
Tony worked for his dad’s restaurant, Ciola’s, which was open in Lakeway for about 10 years, before opening the Bee Cave location. Tony launched Tony C’s in Avery Ranch in late 2012 with business partner Creed Ford IV.
“We actually started looking at the area about four years ago,” Tony said. “We knew it was a great neighborhood—very similar to Lakeway but with more people.”
Tony said the idea to go with a coal-fired oven was the result of a trip he and Ford took to New York City at the suggestion of Tony’s father. In the Big Apple the pair visited numerous pizza restaurants including Lombardi’s, the first pizzeria in the United States.
“Creed and I tried like 20 pizza places in New York, and after going to Lombardi’s, we were sold on that idea,” Tony said, referring to coal-fired pizza. “We’re the first in Austin to do a coal-fired oven.”
The restaurant offers specialty pizzas such as prosciutto and goat cheese, fig and honey, or arugula pesto with roasted chicken and Kalamata olives. For lighter fare, Tony C’s offers salads such as a beet and arugula bowl served with candied walnuts and goat cheese fritters, topped with a grapefruit vinaigrette. Seafood lovers can try the stacked ahi bowl, which is served with sesame-seared tuna, stacked crispy wontons, mangoes and avocado with a sesame ginger vinaigrette.
Tony C’s offers weekday happy hour specials from 3–7 p.m. including a $3 discount on appetizers; $1 discount on bottled beer; and $2 off draft beer, Bellini cocktails and wine by the glass.
“A lot of our staff members moved here when we opened and really enjoy the area,” Tony said. “We’ve also hired a lot of local help as well. They’re all excited to have new options come in the neighborhood.”
Catering/Marketing Specialist Val McElveen oversees catering events for Tony C’s and said the restaurant will customize its offerings to a customer’s needs.
“We’ve done some unique menus in the past; pretty much anything you see on our regular menu, we can also do for catering,” McElveen said.
The restaurant requires 24 to 48 hours notice for catering orders with at a minimum of 10 people and has a catering menu with prices per person.
Austin Pets Alive Benefit
The Tony C’s Avery Ranch location is hosting a 20 wines for $20 wine-tasting event benefiting Austin Pets Alive. The event takes place from 3 to 7 p.m. Aug. 31. and includes live music, light appetizers and sampling of 20 premium wines. This is the third year Tony C’s has held a fundraiser for a local nonprofit. The 2013 event benefited Autism Speaks.
Tony C’s Pizza | Wine Bar, 10526 W. Parmer Lane, Ste. 509, Austin, 512-255-9463, www.tonycs.com, Hours: Sun.–Thu. 11 a.m.–10 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 11 a.m.–11 p.m.