When Tony and Lina Richa opened Tony’s Café 26 years ago, they said they were looking for a way to establish roots in Plano while raising a family. Lina was pregnant with their daughter, Petra, when they opened the restaurant.
Today the couple is preparing for Petra’s marriage with help from their customers, and the Richas said they have enjoyed sharing the milestone with such loyal patrons.
“I love what we do,” Lina said. “It’s [about]the people and the energy that flows here, and I feel it in my heart. This restaurant gives us identity.”
The Richas opened Tony’s Café shortly after moving to Plano from Lebanon in the late 1980s. The cafe is known for its wide variety and Mediterranean flair of food made with fresh herbs from the Richas’ garden. From moussaka and kabobs to American classics and more than a dozen types of omelets, Tony’s Café aims to satisfy many cravings. Breakfast is also served all day, as is lunch for those who like their midday meal a little early, Tony said.
“You won’t believe how many people come [here]at 6 a.m. and want chicken kebabs or chicken Parmesan,” he said. “And we serve breakfast all day, and sometimes it is served more at lunchtime. You can have anything on the menu any time of the day.”
The cafe is known for Tony’s homemade baklava and cinnamon rolls. Tony, who has been in the food industry for roughly 35 years, said he worked in many different restaurants and combined his experiences to create a place that marries living-room comfort with quality meals and friendly service.
Everything on the menu is his special recipe, and no two dishes are alike, he said.
But there is more to Tony’s Café than just the food, Lina said. She said she makes it a point to welcome each customer personally when he or she walks in, eager to make them feel welcome. The Richas said they credit their homeland and its vibrant culture for their emphasis on hospitality. The varied menu alone is a testament to Lebanese cuisine, Tony said.
“Since Lebanon is on the Mediterranean [Sea], it is influenced by a lot of European culture,” he said. “Lebanon is a melting pot like the United States.”
Conversations abound among patrons and wait staff, and occasionally Tony makes it a point to emerge from the kitchen and greet people throughout the day as well. The Richas said they like to stay informed on current events, as conversations with customers vary from sports to local happenings to politics.
“After 9/11, people started coming to us more [wanting to talk]because a lot of people don’t know about other parts of the world,” Tony said. “[Good conversation] is very important; it’s fun when people come to you and ask for your opinion.”
Lina said service has been her calling, made evident in her ability to remember not only her customers’ names but also their favorite dishes. The way they make customers feel by the end of their meal makes the Richas passionate about their service, she said.
“We are always thankful to the people of Plano who have supported us and have believed in us all these years,” Lina said. “This is not an act; this is who we are. We mean well, and it travels.”