Tony Falzone has spent a lot of time in the building that now houses his parents' restaurant, Sam and Tony's. He worked there years ago when it was Chez John's.
Now the chef and general manager - "and plumber and painter" - Falzone, 48, recently remodeled the York eatery, which Ross and Libbie Falzone opened
23 years ago. They named it after Libbie's dad, Sam, and Ross's dad, Tony.
Falzone said the restaurant needed a fresh look and that the former dark-green walls weren't warm and inviting.
"It's a family place where you can bring your kids," he said. "You don't have to spend an arm and a leg to have a good meal."
So in January, he painted the dining room beige and the trim burnt orange and hung bright-colored, old-fashioned movie posters to create a fun look. He added red-and-white-checkered paper place mats on each of the light-wood-colored tables.
In February, after months of conducting market research, Falzone debuted a new menu, which features more American favorites to emphasize the restaurant doesn't serve only Italian food. He said food trends show that people tend to order two small dishes instead of a large meal or a number of appetizers for the table to share.
"People are more adventurous now," he said.
I stopped by on a recent Tuesday for lunch, and a woman seated me by the window overlooking West Market Street. I had been to Sam and Tony's a few times, either for appetizers and sangria on the patio - one of my favorite places to dine outdoors - or for dinner. All of my experiences there were great.
I ordered a hot tea and a caesar salad with three grilled scallops. When the server brought out my food, she said "Tony told me to tell you he gave you four scallops instead of three because they were small."
Falzone didn't know who I was, but he still took the time to explain why I had four scallops on my plate instead of three. It felt really nice to get a personalized message from the chef who prepared my meal.
I loved the scallops, which were lightly seared, and the freshly chopped romaine lettuce, which was topped with grated parmesan cheese. My salad came with a roll with butter.
Falzone said almost everything served at the restaurant is made fresh and that the restaurant has changed a lot. When it first opened, there were 12 items on the menu.
"Spaghetti marinara cost like $5," he said.
Sam and Tony's later expanded to include a patio bar and seating, Celebrations & Catering and the Garlic Pot Deli, which is open 11:30 to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday.
However, he said, his parents still work at the restaurant almost everyday. They walk around to tables and check on customers to ensure they've had a good experience.
Many customers appreciate that gesture, a staple at a well-run family restaurant.
"When someone asks how are you doing or how is everything, they mean it," Falzone said.
Cheap Eats profiles local restaurants, aiming to please our palates and our wallets. Reach Leigh Zaleski at 717-771-2101, email@example.com, @leighzaleski.
Sam and Tony's
LOCATION: 243 W. Market St., York
CUISINE: Italian, American
LEIGH'S PICK: Caesar salad with scallops, hot tea ($14.84)
HOURS: 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Friday (lunch); 5 to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday (dinner)
PRICE RANGE: $2 to $25
ACCEPTS: Cash and credit
KID'S MENU: Yes
DETAILS: Visit samandtonys.com or call 717-852-0059