In the April 19, 1969 issue of Billboard reported that “Tony Bennett Spaghetti House…the first of the restaurants is scheduled to open in Houston in early August. Five additional units will open in the same city before the end of the year, with dozens more planned in other cities for early 1970.” At least one did open, if briefly, in Town & Country where, “the food was…was very bland,” recalled a rare patron. Lasting longer is, “Benedetto’s, Texas State Hotel, 720 Fannin…a supper club that features an Italian feast, cheek-to-cheek dance music and name Vegas acts,” run by the singer’s brother, John.
The songs of the popular Italian-American singers interpreting the Great American Songbook after the Second World War are a requisite part of the ambiance of Italian-themed restaurants in this country. From that group, oddly, more than Tony Bennett had ties to the city. Vic Damone lived here for years after marrying an oil heiress, and two of three of Frank Sinatra’s kids were married to Houstonians (at least briefly). Nancy Sinatra married singer Tommy Sands – who attended Lanier Junior High and then Lamar High School – in 1960. Frank Sinatra, Jr. married a Houston-area lawyer in 1998. Plus, one of Dean Martin’s very best songs is his 1965 recording of “Houston.”
This has been recycled and adapted from my article “A passegiata through Houston’s Italian restaurant history.”
Pete Souza, official White House photographer