Tony’s Pizza in Eustis carries an air of freshness and excitement that sets it apart from the crowded field of Italian-American restaurants.
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I’m convinced that no matter what city you’re in, you can throw a rock and hit an Italian-American restaurant. The cuisine is ingrained in our culture, introduced to our discerning palates by Italian immigrants who modified their native cuisine to incorporate the influences of their new homeland.
But aside from its social significance, Italian-American cuisine remains a favorite because, for many, it conjures up feelings of home. I may not be Italian, but the smell of lasagna baking in the oven or the sight of a plate brimming with spaghetti and meat sauce makes me think of eating at the dinner table with my family.
Yet, while there may be a plethora of Italian-American restaurants to choose from in any given town, it doesn’t mean all are created equal. Some stand out when it comes to taste and originality. Situated in the sprawling outer reaches of Eustis, Tony’s Pizza is that exception.
As first impressions go, don’t let Tony’s Pizza deceive you. It may be intimate neighbors with a Marathon gas station out in what feels like the wilds of Lake County, but I like to think of places like these as pearls — get past the shell and you’ll find the prize. And in the case of Tony’s Pizza, it’s most certainly the food.[divider_1px]
“Whenever we come into Tony’s, they have our drinks ready. It’s home,” says Sissie. “We come here two, maybe three, times a week, and we love everything. The salads are yummy, their wings are great… it really is the best in town.”
— Sissie Pixley, Melissa Connor, and Lourie McDougal of Eustis
I arrived just before the lunch rush and was able to commandeer a good seat. Tony’s has been a staple for quality Italian-American food in the community for more than 25 years. No one remembers the original owner’s full name (everyone just knew him as “Tony), but current owner Kay Branton has been at the helm for 11 years. Though she has had no desire to change the restaurant’s name because of its notoriety, she did shake things up by expanding the dining room and adding new menu items that have customers old and new clamoring for more.
“When we first bought Tony’s, it was just pizza, subs, and pasta. Now, we have flatbreads and new salads with pizzazz,” said Kay. “We’re always making good, homemade food that entices people to come back. We have some regulars who come in three to four times a week.”
Kay credits much of her success to using only the freshest ingredients and employing a very devoted staff.
“I’ve always been really proud of my employees. They work hard.”
Such was evident when the lunch hour crowd came rolling in. As clusters of people flooded the front waiting area, servers hustled to seat and serve people in a timely manner. Luckily, time wasn’t an issue for me; however, my flatbreads were still served promptly. I sampled Tony’s three bestsellers: The 44 Flat, YiaYia’s Greek Flatbread, and the BBQ Flat.
While far from anything Italian, the BBQ Flat was my personal favorite. It comes with grilled barbecue chicken, sautéed red onions, mozzarella and cheddar cheeses, applewood smoked bacon, and barbecue sauce drizzled atop a perfectly cooked flatbread. The sauce was sweet and tangy and went nicely with all the additional ingredients. I especially appreciated the white meat chicken being juicy, flavorful, and generous strewn on top of the flatbread.
My second favorite was The 44 Flat, which was topped with grilled chicken, feta, freshly minced garlic, spinach, mozzarella cheese, and a light balsamic dressing. I enjoyed the light feta and fresh garlic that helped diminish the acidity of the balsamic dressing, and the spinach was also quite fresh.
Lastly, but most certainly not least, YiaYia’s Greek Flatbread combined all the flavors of a delicious Greek salad in a handheld version. What I loved about this particular flatbread was the cool tzatziki sauce that comes with it for dipping. Nonetheless, in addition to the wonderfully appetizing toppings, I was very impressed with the actual bread of the flatbreads. They each were soft and warm in the middle yet still crisp around the edges, which made it perfect, no-fuss finger food.
Next, I tried a Tony’s favorite: Kay’s lobster bisque. Skimming the menu, I didn’t find it listed anywhere, but I’m positive if you ask for a bowl, the waiters will certainly oblige. Served with a heavenly pair of garlic rolls, I found this beautiful bisque to be rich, creamy, and seasoned nicely. The rolls were also magnificent because they appealed to my slight obsession with garlic.
Approaching satiation, Kay presented me with one final entrée, the Portofino Bay pasta. This dish brings together sautéed chicken, stunningly plump shrimp, penne pasta, sun-dried tomatoes, and mushrooms all tossed in a lovely pesto sauce. What I loved most about this particular dish (and why I loved Kay for picking it) was the pesto sauce. The peppery notes of the basil always lend incredible flavor to this simple sauce. And working side by side with the earthy mushrooms and intense, concentrated flavor of the sun-dried tomatoes, this dish was so scrumptious it could stand on its own sans meat. Nevertheless, the chicken and shrimp are a nice touch to a generally solid entrée.
With just a smidge of space left for dessert, Kay offered a slice of turtle cheesecake. How can you go wrong with pecans, chocolate, caramel, and cheesecake courtesy of the Cheesecake Factory? Sweet and savory, the slice put me over the edge, but allowed me to toddle happily away from Tony’s with thoughts of a future visit swimming in my head.
Popular Lunch Dishes
The 44 Flat: $8.50
Portofino Bay Pasta: $12.25
Mediterranean Pizza: $16 (small); $18 (medium); $21 (large); $23 (extra-large)
Chicken Alfredo Stromboli: $10.75
Blackened Mahi Salad: $10.75
ADDRESS: 2760 E. Orange Ave., Eustis, FL 32726
HOURS OF OPERATION: Monday–Thursday, 11a.m.–9p.m.; Friday, 11a.m.–9:30p.m.; Saturday, 11:30a.m.–9p.m.; Sunday, 11:30a.m.–8p.m.