Tony May, the New York restaurateur who showed consumers that fine Italian cuisine is more than just pasta, died Sunday at the age of 84, according to his daughter and fellow restaurateur Marisa May.
No cause has been revealed for her death, although reports from sources close to the family say May suffered a short illness.
May, born Antony Magliolo, was perhaps best known for San Domenico, the New York fine-dining establishment that offered authentic dishes that some described as the cuisine of Italy’s aristocracy. The dishes were upscale and tasty yet still simple in preparation.
The restaurant also sported a carefully curated list of Italian wines, a May passion.
He opened San Domenico in 1988 and ran it until its acquisition in 2008.
May’s other eateries included Palio, a venue themed around the famously dangerous horse race held in Siena, and PastaBreak, a fast-casual first company located in the World Trade Center. It was destroyed on September 11. He had a second restaurant at Ground Zero, Gemelli, which was also destroyed.
Prior to opening these establishments, May ran and owned a stake in the Rainbow Room, Manhattan’s iconic restaurant perched above Rockefeller Center.
Throughout his career as a restaurateur, the Italian has endeavored to popularize the regional cuisine of his native country. These efforts include launching the May-Mei Italian Culinary Academy, a cooking school that provided a brief but comprehensive introduction to Mediterranean preparation methods.
He has also been involved with the Culinary Institute of America and Johnson & Wales, two of the top culinary schools in the industry.
May was a former director of the National Restaurant Association.
A website focused on May’s culinary career, TonyMayNY.com, features this assessment by famed New York magazine food writer Gael Greene of the Italian restaurateur’s influence:
“Tony May has awakened New Yorkers to the wonderful variety of Italian regional cuisine. Italian eating in this city just keeps getting better. Italy owes him a debt and so do we.
Members help make our journalism possible. Become a Restaurant Business member today and unlock exclusive benefits, including unlimited access to all our content. Register here.