Anthony ‘Tony’ Bommarito had a front-row seat during one of the most storied eras for downtown St. Louis. He and his brother, Vince, ran the fabled Tony’s Restaurant at a time when the city’s movers and shakers dropped in daily to be pampered at mealtime. The restaurant that his father, Tony, opened in 1946 was (and still is) among the town’s finest and most highly acclaimed dining establishments.
In 1972, when Bommarito branched out and opened Anthony’s, it attracted those same high rollers: the ad men of D’Arcy, the PR gurus of Fleishman, the top brass at A-B, Ralston, Southwestern Bell, Mercantile and Boatmen’s— they all came in. ‘Two-martini’ lunches were as common as a Lou Brock stolen base.
Twenty years ago, Bommarito reinvented himself again, getting out of the restaurant scene and into the wine distribution business. He also began to dabble in local politics. Then in April 2011, he took his game to a whole new level: Ladue City Councilman Bommarito became Mayor Bommarito.
The first thing you’ll notice when you walk into his city hall office is its simplicity: no plaques on the walls, no name plate on the desk, not a single piece of paper. “I like the look— it’s plain and simple and clean,” the mayor says. “When things are cluttered, I think it clutters your brain.”
Bommarito is trying to keep it simple with his focus on making city government as efficient as possible. “There is no way a small company can compete with the big companies if it’s not efficient. We have to be lean and slick and streamlined, and do things better than everybody else. It’s the only way a city can give the taxpayers true value for their tax money.” But Bommarito knows you can’t cut corners or fall behind in Ladue, either. The city, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, is traditionally the place the most influential people in the region call home. Bommarito is working to keep it that way. “If you take things for granted, then you’re not going up the hill, you’re going downhill—and that’s not good. We have to make sure we are competing with other communities,” he explains. “When someone moves in from outside the area, we shouldn’t give them what they expect, we should give them more than that. If we’re not doing that, then we are falling short.”
Bommarito says Ladue has always had a very conservative government, calling it “almost conservative to a fault!” He’s focusing on updating the city’s website and computer systems, citing the need for better civic outreach and more cost-effective recordkeeping. On the mayor’s wish list for 2012 are some major upgrades for the fire department, possibly including a new firehouse. He admits he’s still trying to get used to what he describes as the “slow pace of government,” compared to private business. Even in a smaller city like Ladue, he says there’s always politics. “I think some of the internal politics is the hardest to digest—that’s a little different from what I’m used to. I don’t think political savvy is a strength of mine; but regardless of that, people always will get an honest, straightforward answer from me.”
Bommarito’s first priorities for this past year were as simple as the décor in his office: building a more efficient government, boosting morale for city workers and planting more flowers at key intersections. There was another change made by him that was very subtle, but could be considered most notable: All the city limit signs were changed from ‘Entering Ladue’ to ‘Welcome to Ladue.’