Q - Tony Al - Raina

RAINA BARNETT/Alachua County Today

Albiero Zuluaga, owner of Tony and Al's on Main Street in Alachua, prepares the oven for a fresh pizza, which only takes 7 to 8 minutes of baking in the wood-fired oven until it is a perfect golden brown.

ALACHUA – With 99 reviews by people on Facebook rating Al and Tony’s Italian Deli at 5 stars, it is no wonder the restaurant has three successful years of serving up Italian fare under its belt.

While the restaurant celebrated its three-year anniversary on May 8, 2016, it may be surprising to learn there are two Al and Tony’s Italian Deli locations in Alachua County, with one in Starke at 200 East Call Street, and one at 4960 Main Street in Alachua.

General Manager of the Starke location, Tony Veliz, and Genereal Manager of the Alachua location, Al Zuluaga, have known each other for nearly 15 years. Meeting in Ocala in another Italian restaurant, Bella Luna, the two joined forces in their love of cooking.

Zuluaga, a native of New York, and Velez, a native of Miami, believe they are bringing the authentic taste of Italy to Alachua County.

“I just like to cook,” Velez said. “We make our food fresh every day, the bread, it’s the right thing to do.”

And with Zuluaga’s 38 years of experience in the kitchen, from working in French and Italian restaurants in New York to cooking at home for family, the restaurant’s menu is tantalizing.

Food served at Tony and Al’s is made from scratch. No packets of dried chicken, no pre-packaged meals, no canned vegetables.

The most popular dish at Tony and Al’s is the gourmet pizza.

It is fresh, never frozen, and the dough is tossed and topped with fresh ingredients like cheddar cheese, green spinach, and more.

At the Alachua restaurant, entertainment is provided.

“The karaoke and music is at the Alachua location,” Velez said. “Latin American music by a live band also plays there.”

The Facebook page for the Alachua location boasts “the most delicious food in town,” with a list of the treats coming to guests in the month of June.

Mondays from 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. is karaoke night.

Wednesday is Trivia Night from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

On Thursday, June 16, the restaurant will host live music and an art night.

Local artists from the surrounding areas of High Springs and Alachua will display their art. Dinner guests will have the opportunity to not only enjoy viewing the art, but will also have an opportunity to purchase as well.

“The music and art will be set up on different sides of the restaurant,” Zuluaga said. “The live music will be near the bar, with art around for everyone.”

This restaurant is locally owned and operated. And it’s that local touch that lends a special ambience to its unique feel and atmosphere that sets it apart from many chain restaurants. The servers tend to be more invested in their work, and local customers benefit from the authentic Italian deli and restaurant experience that is unique in Alachua’s dining arena.

The Starke location is open Monday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., while the Alachua location hours are Monday to Thursday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday to Saturday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sunday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

#     #     #

Email Rbarnett@