Chef Tony’s set to open new higher-end location in late October

Chef Tony’s set to open new higher-end location this month

Restaurant receives alcohol license, working on final construction

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A rendering showing how the inside of the new Chef Tony's will look

Submitted photo

The owners of Chef Tony’s in Bethesda plan to open a more upscale version of the seafood spot in late October.

The new restaurant, which will have the same name, will be in the Promenade building on Pooks Hill Road.

On Oct. 1, the restaurant received a license to sell beer, wine, and liquor. Now, only the final phase of set-up remains before opening — furnishing the newly constructed space.

The restaurant was initially set to open in April, but the pandemic caused a six-month delay

Like the existing Chef Tony’s on St. Elmo Avenue in Bethesda, the new restaurant will serve Mediterranean seafood dishes. The space is fancier than the original location, with wood grain tables and navy and stone finishes. But Tony Marciante, who owns the restaurant with his wife, Sonia, said he hopes to carry over the cozy atmosphere.

“We’re always centered around the concept of really dining together, sharing community and conversation,” he said. “It’s definitely humble and family style, but it’s an upscale place.”

The kitchen and dining room are new. The coming location will feature an outdoor patio that can seat 50 to 60 customers.

The existing Chef Tony’s has a small patio, and currently serves at about 20 percent capacity compared to before the pandemic.

Before COVID-19, the existing Chef Tony’s had about 10 to 20 percent of its business as carry-out orders, while the rest were dine-in. The current public health situation has reversed the two, Marciante said, and now 80 percent of patrons opt for take-out.

This year was set to be the business’ best before the pandemic began in mid-March. Since then, the business is making about half as much money as it would in normal times, Marciante said.

The restaurant specializes in Mediterranean seafood dishes. Calamari, branzino, spicy shrimp pasta and Italian paella are some of the top sellers.

But the menu is often influenced by the fresh seafood delivered each day. Lobster and halibut arrived at the restaurant during Marciante’s phone interview with Bethesda Beat.

“Our philosophy is that food is a connector,” Marciante said. “We appreciate the value of food in connecting people around the world and even in someone’s intimate family.”

The restaurant has used food to bridge cultures. It strays from its usual Mediterranean menu to serve tamales on Fridays and pupusas on Saturdays. For Marciante’s wife, Sonia, who hails from El Salvador, pupusas are a familiar staple that the Bethesda community has come to enjoy.

Before the pandemic, the restaurant offered in-person cooking classes. Now, Marciante is converting them to an online format, creating a website to teach people how to cook seafood at home.

The original Chef Tony’s location opened in 2007 on St. Elmo Avenue. Marciante, its namesake, had been the executive chef at McCormick and Schmick’s, and wanted to head up his own place.

When he first started the restaurant, he named it Visions, referring to his visions of coming to America from his birthplace of Milan, Italy. But the name made the type of restaurant unclear, and in 2010, Marciante pivoted and named the place Chef Tony’s.

He emphasized that business owners must continuously pivot through tough times, as he did after founding Chef Tony’s one year before an economic recession.

But, Marciante said, he needed the community to rally behind the restaurant then, the same as now.

“We like to believe that restaurants are an essential part of a culture,” he said. “I would just suggest everybody support your local restaurants and spread the word because it’s a very difficult time.”

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