Tucson loses Anthony's in the Catalinas

2013-09-04T00:00:00Z 2014-01-28T15:18:57Z Tucson loses Anthony's in the CatalinasBy Cathalena E. Burch Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

One of Tucson’s pre-eminent fine-dining restaurants closed on Tuesday, capping a 25-year run that was punctuated by a string of prestigious awards for its extensive wine collection.

Anthony’s In the Catalinas announced its closing on Facebook just after 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, a time that should have been the height of Anthony’s weekday lunch service.

“We are very proud of all we have done and glad to have served all of you. Thank you for all your support,” the post said.

Anthony’s Web page was taken down Tuesday, and owner Anthony Martino could not be reached for additional comment.

Martino opened Anthony’s in the Catalinas at 6440 N. Campbell Ave. on Jan. 20, 1989. The restaurant, surrounded by majestic views of the Catalina Mountains, served up a continental menu heavily influenced by Mediterranean cuisine.

But it was the depth of its wine stores — rare and vintage bottles numbering in the thousands and selling for as much as $13,000 a bottle — that established Anthony’s as a destination, particularly with travelers.

“The restaurant was originally designed to cater to the resort guests who are looking for those rare bottles of wine,” said longtime sommelier Joseph Mascari, who had been at Anthony’s since 1992. He was working on the day in March 2008 when a tourist plunked down $25,000 for two of the restaurant’s rarest bottles — a 1900 Chateau Margaux and 1900 Chateau Lafite Rothschild. It was among the largest single customer sales in the restaurant’s history, Mascari said.

Anthony’s won its first Wine Spectator Grand Award — Mascari equates it to an athlete landing on the cover of Sports Illustrated — in 1993. The award, given to a handful of restaurants annually, is based on the number of bottles and varieties of wine a restaurant has on hand.

The magazine continued to award Anthony’s top honors every year since, Mascari said, including this summer, when it singled out Anthony’s California, Bordeaux, Tuscany and Piedmont wines as its strengths. The magazine put the restaurant’s inventory at 19,000 bottles and reported it had 1,850 selections on hand, numbers that Mascari could not confirm Tuesday as he boxed up crates of wine.

“There is a lot of wine,” he said, adding that he had no idea what would become of it.

In addition to attracting tourists, Anthony’s was a go-to destination restaurant for Tucsonans to celebrate life’s milestones — from anniversaries to birthdays, retirements and reunions, including the Tucson High School class of 1950, which had planned a luncheon on Oct. 12.

Organizers had sent out invitations in August and already had 15 people make reservations, said Barbara Baldwin Salyer, who heads the organizing committee.

“Who knows where we will end up. It surely complicates things,” Salyer said. The committee put down a $200 deposit and anticipated about 100 people would attend the luncheon.

“I have a hunch we will be out that money,” she said.

Mascari said business has been steadily falling at Anthony’s since the market crashed in 2008.

“I thought we would have closed down years ago,” he said. “When the market crashed, people didn’t have expendable income any more. … It’s such a difficult task to try to come back.”

Martino’s business woes were further complicated in 2011 when his wife and business partner Mary Brooke Martino pleaded guilty to charges that she filed false returns for the couple’s personal and business taxes from 2002 to 2006. The IRS estimated that the false returns resulted in a tax loss of $200,000 to $400,000, according to Arizona Daily Star archives.

Mascari said Martino notified staff members on Sunday that he was closing the restaurant. Mascari said he and the other employees were assured that they would be paid next week.

“It was a great restaurant, and we loved it, and we loved Mr. Anthony,” Mascari said. “He treated us like family.”

Contact reporter Cathalena E. Burch at cburch@azstarnet.com or 573-4642.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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