In decision to temporarily close, Bethesda restaurateur calls coronavirus ‘no joke’

In decision to temporarily close, Bethesda restaurateur calls coronavirus ‘no joke’

Chef Tony’s co-owner posts emotional video, says news of young man’s death resonated

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Chef Tony's in Bethesda temporarily closed last week due to concerns over the coronavirus disease, or COVID-19

File photo

As he temporarily closed his business due to the coronavirus, a Bethesda restaurateur made an emotional plea to the public to take the outbreak seriously.

Tony Marciante, who owns Chef Tony’s in Bethesda with his wife, Sonia, posted a seven-minute video to the restaurant’s website on Thursday. In it, he explained the decision to close the  restaurant to avoid risking transmission of the virus.

“We couldn’t bear the thought of getting someone sick,” he said in the video. “Not from us through our food, but having people come to the door, having to drive to the restaurant. We’re wrapped up in medical gear. We’re wearing face masks and gloves and hats and hair nets and all the rest of it, which is what you need to do, but it’s just kind of getting to be too much, in our opinion, to be feeling good about it.”

Marciante said he was struck while hearing the story of an otherwise healthy man in his 30s who contracted coronavirus and was dead a few days later.

Before Thursday, Chef Tony’s was offering carryout food following Gov. Larry Hogan’s executive order on March 16 that closed all restaurants and bars in the state for sit-down service.

“We’ve been serving a lot of people every day. … We feel for our staff. We feel for our guests,” Marciante said in the video. “I mean, literally less than 12 hours ago, we were making shrimp pasta and chicken and all the good stuff. It’s hitting too close to home. It’s a weird reality we’re in.”

Even though there were only a few employees on duty each day to keep the restaurant going, “it’s just a risk that we don’t want to take,” he said.

Marciante said business at the restaurant continued steadily, but he and his wife think closing down for at least a few weeks is safer for now.

“My wife, my mom and my dad have been talking to me about it, and we just feel it’s the right thing to do,” he said in the video.

Marciante urged people to obey the stay-at-home order Hogan issued last week, restricting travel to essential activities.

“I’m not fear-mongering, but this thing is no joke,” Marciante said, mentioning a map that showed many people returning from spring break, then testing positive in their home states, putting others in danger. “We don’t get it. We’re still out running around together in the streets. We’re still playing basketball together.”

Marciante said he plans to work on some projects while the restaurant is closed — possibly a book or a cooking show.

Dan Schere can be reached at


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