The Ciola family opened its first restaurant in Virginia Beach in 1949, before Ciola launched the original Tony C's in Bee Cave in 2009. Sixty years separated, some of his family's signature Italian recipes will find their way onto customers' plates when the franchise opens its first Round Rock location Sept. 24.
"My original dreams and hopes were to go play major league baseball, but I injured my shoulder in college so that didn't work out too well," Ciola said. "When I couldn't play baseball anymore, it just seemed like the natural thing to do."
Ford's parents met working in restaurants while his father attended graduate school at Texas A&M. His father held a manager position at the original Chili's in Dallas, working his way through the ranks and retiring as chief operating officer of Chili's parent company, Brinker International Inc., in the late 1990s.
"I was raised in a Chili's booth," Ford said. "And so growing up, I always knew I wanted to get into the business."
Round Rock's Tony C's Pizza & Beer Garden features a new approach for the business, inspired by the Brooklyn beer scene. In researching concepts for the Round Rock location, Ciola and Ford said it is not always the cost or fanciness of a restaurant that makes it memorable; rather, it is the sense of comfort and familiarity found within its four walls.
"You'll go to the nicest restaurants in the world and have a good time, but then there's always a few places that draw you back," Ciola said. "These beer gardens—you can sit there for four hours, and you just lose track of time."
Tony C's Pizza & Beer Garden's menu will include more than 20 Texas craft beers on draft, along with coal-fired pizza and Italian classics. Ciola said his benchmark for determining a quality Italian meal comes down to the basics.
"If you don't screw up the meatballs, Caesar salad or cheese pizza, you're going to be doing okay," he said, laughing.
Tony C's Pizza & Beer Garden
3800 E. Palm Valley Blvd., Ste. 140, Round Rock | 512-595-7050 | www.tonycsbeergarden.com