Mario Antonio “Tony” Fundora, the gregarious chef-owner of well-regarded Italian restaurant Casa Nuova in Alpharetta, died suddenly of natural causes Friday, October 22, at the age of 78.
Tony was born March 5, 1943, in Havana, Cuba. He immigrated to the United States August 25, 1962 and became a bicentennial American citizen in 1976. During this time, he pioneered the move of 56 members of his family to the United States. Tony began his career in the hospitality industry with several years in New York, West Palm Beach, ultimately landing in Atlanta in 1967. He started washing dishes and worked his way up as a baker, cook, chef, server and maître d.’ Eventually, Tony opened his first restaurant in Atlanta called Alfredo’s in 1974. As a blossoming restaurateur, he created Avanti’s from 1978-1987, followed by Antonio’s Bakery in 1980 and Tony’s Casa Napoli from 1982-1987.
In 1987, Tony and Maria were set up on a blind date by a mutual friend and they quickly fell in love, beginning their life together. Tony and Maria opened their first restaurant together called Avanti’s Pescevino from March 1989-1996. He also started Tony’s Farmer’s Market circa 1992-1994. They continued this legacy and eventually built their dream together by opening Casa Nuova Italian Restaurant in 1998.
Tony spread his love for food by sharing it with the community. His passion for fresh food inspired him to grow his own fruits, vegetables and flowers, on his farm in North Fulton which he loved sharing with everyone that came to the restaurant. He found it to be an honor and a privilege to spend his life serving others, and sharing recipes – his favorite was veal francese with a side of linguini white clam sauce. He would say “I am not better than anyone else as they are no better than me. And everyone in this world deserves respect and kindness.”
For more information, please visit casanuovarestaurant.com.