In the mid-1980s, Chef Bill thought he had a line on a new job as the head chef of a hot Westside restaurant. He went through three interviews and then sat back to wait for the job offer to come in. The problem was that the call never came.
Turns out, his phone wasn't working, so he never received the job offer. A few days later, he reconnected with Tony Palermo who worked with him at the Hard Rock Cafe, and Tony immediately asked him to come aboard as the chef of his new restaurant, Teasers, in Santa Monica. That was 1984. “I believe in fate, said the Zacatecas, Mexico native. “ The phone wasn't working, and that’s why I'm here. I'm really happy about that. We have a great core of servers and cooks who have been here for a long time. We get to try a lot of new things in the kitchen. It’s a great place to work.”
Bill came to the U.S. from Mexico when he was just 16 and worked his way up through the kitchens of a number of restaurants on the Westside, learning the culinary arts along the way. “I always tried to get along with the chef because they would teach you what they were doing,” said Bill, who is now taking aspiring chefs under his own wing. “Once a year, Tony brings in kids to the restaurant to make their own pizzas, quesadillas, desserts. It’s fun watching them and giving them an idea of how their food is made.” For Bill, making food for diners at Tony P’s is an art that has to be balanced by the limitations of working in a busy restaurant.
“I’d love to make Mexican molé and some of the special recipes that I have, but people don’t realize how hard it is to not only create a dish but make sure it goes out of the kitchen exactly the same way every time,” he said. Still, Bill said he enjoys the flexibility and creativity the restaurant gives him. From the specials he creates on a regular basis to the restaurant’s varied menu, Bill says he gets the chance to make a little bit of everything. “I like to cook the steaks and the pastas, but I’m always trying to figure out new things to put on the menu,” he said. “There’s never a dull moment here, and I look forward to coming to work every day.”
From her dialect, you might guess Denise is from England and loves to watch soccer players run around the “pitch,” but what you might not know is that Denise, who worked at Teasers in Santa Monica before coming to Tony P’s in 2001, is quite the runner herself. “We once had a party of six teenagers who tried to run out on the check at Teasers,” she recalled. “ I chased them down the Promenade, caught one of them and sat on his chest until the police arrived.”
And that’s not the only thing she’s caught in the restaurant business. Denise also caught her husband, Eric, who works as a bartender at Tony P’s. Together, the couple has a 7-year-old little boy, also named Eric, who keeps them on their toes. But don’t be fooled, just because Denise spends lots of time these days in Mommy and Me classes doesn’t mean she has given up her athletic lifestyle.
Denise and Eric still enjoy going to the ocean and hiking and everything involved with the outdoors. “We live in Santa Monica,” she said, “and it’s great – close to the beach and Tony P’s. It’s just a few hours away from everything: The Mountains, Vegas, and the desert. We love it.”
Denise also says she loves the food at Tony P’s. “There’s nothing better than the flat iron steak,” she said. “I always recommend that to people if they don’t want a filet or if they just want something with a little more flavor. “Denise is effusive in her praise of the flat iron steak, but you should also know in her younger days she was a closet fan of Barbra Streisand. “I once watched ‘The Way We Were’ 14 nights in a row,” she confessed. Don’t worry, Denise, your secret’s safe with us!
Of course, Jack can tell you the best steak on the menu or which pizza is his favorite (the Eloy, if you’re asking), but he can also tell you whether Nightwing is a Marvel or DC comic (DC) and what metal is bonded to Wolverine’s bones (adamantium). You see, between shifts at Tony P’s, much of Jack’s spare time is spent collecting comic books.
“I started with one or two, but now, I’ve got to have one or two each week,” said Jack, who admits he’s addicted. “I enjoy them, but I don’t do it as an investment. I like the artwork and the stories.”
Jack has worked at Tony P’s since 2009, and said his favorite part of working at the restaurant is the high quality of both the food and the people. “We get a lot of people from the hotel’s next door because we have a sports tavern, we have a great menu and we’re easy to get to. The thing that makes my job easy is the quality and consistency of the food,” he said. And while he admits to liking lots of things on the menu, his real affinity is for the dessert menu.
“I have a sweet tooth,” he said. “The brownie sundae really hits the spot.” Jack lives in Santa Monica, where his father, Lewis, spent 28 years as a police officer and said having a few super powers of his own wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, especially when things get busy at Tony P’s. “I think super speed would come in handy sometimes,” he said.
There’s no one at Tony P’s ready to give you a better deal than Joey! After all, he started his career as a casino dealer, dealing up everything from blackjack to pai-gow. “I was known for giving away all the big hands,” he joked. “I gave up so many big pots, they promoted me to pit boss.”
At Tony P’s, Joey spent six years as a server and met his wife Katrina who was a hostess. They took a break to go back to Joey’s casino roots in Northern California for a few years. Shortly after returning to Southern California, Joey joined Tony P’s as a manager. Now, with a new baby daughter, Ava, Joey is happy to be back in the fold at Tony P’s. “It’s a fun vibe working here,” he said. “I think that’s the reasons so many people have been here so long. Management is close to everyone, and it’s a real family place. My wife and daughter come here all the time, and a lot of my closest friends are either co-workers or regular customers.”
Ava has changed Joey’s life a lot. “My hobbies have changed quite a bit since she arrived,” he said. “I used to be all about golfing and working out, but now I’m home with Ava and our Pug Rocky.” But Ava certainly hasn’t ended all of Joey’s fun. He can often be found singing “Can’t Help Falling in Love” and other Elvis standards in karaoke bars around town. “My uncle was an Elvis impersonator, so I’ve been singing Elvis since I was 3-years-old,” Joey said.