TONYS First of 5 Riviera Restaurants in 6 Months [CLOSED]

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Restaurant Los Angeles

TONYS hopes to have a better run at the Sunset Millennium development than predecessors.

Tony Riviera already owns Caffe Primo on the Sunset Strip and at the Americana. In 2009, he has even bigger plans for his Primo Hospitality Group, opening five restaurants in the next six months, including TONYS steakhouse in the former Sunset Millennium home of Norman’s and the blink-and-you-missed-it Crudo.

Riviera is a Brooklyn native who owned several restaurants in Seattle (including The Manhattan Steakhouse) before moving to Los Angeles, where he founded Primo Hospitality Group with Charlton E. Lui. They debuted Primo Gelato at the Sunset Millennium complex in 2002 and have strategically expanded their company ever since.

Primo Hospitality Group could open Primo Bistro in the West Hollywood Ramada as early as next week, and on February 6, Riviera will debut TONYS. [Check that; he’s actually hosting a red carpet preview on February 5, to benefit Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.] Riviera gave me a tour of TONYS on January 14 during a rare break.

Riviera’s approach with TONYS is to “create food from its simplest form.” It bothers him that “Celebrity chefs are overcomplicating food, [charging] high prices, with too many elements. People just want to eat.”

The menu will be “value driven,” with entrees starting at $12. Cuts of steak start at four ounces, all served with mashed potatoes and vegetables. Steaks and chops are broiled at about 3000 degrees, seared with a special spice rub. He’ll serve meatballs forged from five different meats. Pasta dishes include penne with crab fra diavolo sauce, bucatini with mullet in garlic chile sauce, and pasta with Italian beef short ribs braised for 12 hours.

To drink, expect $5 martinis and 40 wines under $30, with oversight by GM/Sommelier Tony Sotello. Riviera just bought a private label, a blend of Cabernet and Merlot, which should be available in two months at every Primo restaurant.

Expect 8-10 desserts, including Grand Marnier soufflé, butterscotch pudding, banana crème brulee, coconut cake, zabaglione prepared tableside, flourless chocolate cake, and of course Primo gelato and sorbet.

For the design, Riviera employed architectural firm (fer) studio, but only after he “compiled all the elements.” Riviera’s goal with restaurant design: “classic timeless restaurants that are maintenance friendly [with an inviting end-user experience].”

Unlike TONYS’ predecessors, Riviera’s restaurant entrance faces Sunset Boulevard. The dining room features C-shaped booths with the owner’s table in the corner, walnut floors hosting two- and four-top tables and dropdown lamps with amber fluorescent bulbs. A piano will be active five nights a week.

Down a ramp, you’ll find a terrazzo floor with marble bar area offering a more casual dining experience.

A glass-framed exhibition kitchen hosts a chef’s table that accommodates up to 24 people. The kitchen features a Molteni chef’s island made in the south of France that allows for “brigade service,” where everybody works at a particular kitchen station and trades off. Every time you move to a new station, it’s an incentive to advance. Further back, chefs will utilize a wood stone oven, a full-service bakery and a back door where celebrities can escape through a service elevator to avoid paparazzi.

Outdoors, you’ll find a canopy-shielded patio with banquette seating, two- and four-top tables, plus a fire pit and lounge.

Later this year, Riviera will expand his focus downtown, explaining, “Three to four years from now it’s going to be huge.” Primo Cucina will house a restaurant, gourmet marketplace, wine cellar and gelato lab (which will supply Primo restaurants and package gelato for retail sale). Riviera also plans to introduce a line of sauces and dry ingredients. TONYS Los Angeles will be 10,000 square feet, in an old bank at the base at 6th & Olive. Riviera also plans to open a third Caffe Primo at the base of Pegasus Lofts.

When asked if it’s tricky to maintain consistency with multiple restaurants, Riviera said he has the benefit of prior restaurant-juggling experience. He also said he’s learned how to “create a corporate culture where people understand a philosophy and make sure [they] execute.” He also makes sure employees feel invested, utilizing medical and dental insurance, free meals, and a stock option program where employees become vested after five years.


Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

Blog Comments

Tony’s went out of business almost as quickly as Crudo. Now it’s just a lame bar. Primo Cucina never happened. Caffe Primo at the Americana just closed. I feel sorry for Tony Riviera’s financial backers and his employees. The five year stock option program is laughable, exactly how many of his business ventures last that long?

Tony Riviera is a scam artist. I heard the other day he’s under indictment for defrauding investors.


That’s a pretty extreme claim. Do you actually have any supporting evidence, or do you just enjoy sharing scandalous hearsay?

Tony’s is just perfect (especially in these times).
Great food selection and taste along with very reasonable
prices make this a winner!! Also, the service was great and the environment was beautiful. What more could you ask for?

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