The Toni Dalli Story

The Toni Dalli Story

Antonio D’Alessandro, more famously known as Toni Dalli, was born in Pescara, Abruzzo, in central Italy After singing at local functions there as a boy, he moved to Yorkshire, England at the age of sixteen. He became a British resident by working in the coal mines and steel mills for four years.

The Toni Dalli Story

Whilst a miner he performed at local Working Men’s Clubs and appeared in several TV amateur shows, such as Top Down, Bid For Fame, What Makes A Star and The Carroll Levis Discovery Show. He could not take up professional singing until he had completed the necessary four years residency pre-requisite of working in the steelworks.

The Toni Dalli Story

Dalli was soon booked at the Cecil Cinema in Hull. Here, he was spotted by Percy Livingstone and Rob Goldstein (from 20th Century Fox), who told him that he must leave Yorkshire and go to London.

Toni remembers the evening that he met Percy Livingstone, "One evening a member of staff at the Cecil came and said that the gaffer wanted to see me. Although business was fantastic, with queues forming most nights, I just wondered if I was on the way out….I knocked on Mr. Evans’ office door…and he welcomed me in and introduced me to a guy called Percy Livingstone who turned out to be the number two to the legendary Bob Goldstein of 20th Century Fox. Percy said that he had heard me singing and I had to join his organization in London. ‘Me?’ I asked. ‘But I’m a star and I’m earning 50 pounds a week here in Yorkshire’. After a lot of argy-bargy Mr. Evans insisted that I must go. He told me that he didn’t want to lose me but for my own sake I had to go to the big city to further my career. I was a little bewildered but realised I may only get one chance…"

By May 1957, Dalli was studying under singing teacher Dino Borgiole, and in October 1957, he performed at the Embassy Club. It was here that he was discovered by the comedian Max Bygraves, whose agent, Jock Jacobsen, also signed Dalli on.

"I couldn’t believe it!" said Toni "Within no time at all I had got myself an agent, thanks to Max Bygraves, I had an EMI recording contract, had a spot on BBC and now they wanted me to go to Hollywood and Las Vegas and also appear on the Ed Sullivan Show! When was my luck going to run out?...It was an exciting time alright but full of ifs and buts along the way".

The Toni Dalli Story

By this time, Dalli was appearing in numerous major TV shows. In February 1958, he made his first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show in New York, followed by major performances at the Moulin Rouge, Hollywood, the Desert Inn in Las Vegas and Carnegie Hall in New York.

Upon Dalli’s return to England, a contract was waiting for him with EMI Records and his first of five albums was recorded, including the hit song Come Prima (More Than Ever). Later, he recorded with Capitol Records and Decca, appearing in theatres throughout the world. These included two one-man-shows at the Carnegie Hall and Hollywood Bowl.

The Toni Dalli Story

When Mario Lanza died in 1959, Dalli was signed up to do a motion picture based on his life, The Mario Lanza Story. The film was never released, for legal reasons. Dalli also sang in the US, where he had his own TV show on KCOP in Los Angeles for 13 weeks. He also worked in Australia, South Africa and Hong Kong.

Toni retired from show business in 1980 and was persuaded by long-time friends Jimmy Tarbuck and Sean Connery to consider relocating to Marbella, and not California. After spending a short time on the Costa del Sol, Toni decided to move to Marbella permanently opening Toni Dalli’s restaurant at the Oasis Club which was located front line beach on the Golden Mile. The club became a focal point for people wanting to relocate to Marbella and Toni spent the next 25 years promoting the area in the press and on TV around Europe.

The Toni Dalli Story

"Sean Connery always found time", said Toni "during his very busy career, to say ‘Hello’ and I really appreciated his kind thoughts and encouragement especially during my bad times. Sean already had a home in Marbella when we moved to the coast. We soon struck up a good partnership at golf and played four or five times a week at Aloha or Las Brisas when Sean was not filming. We became virtually unbeatable and several pairs would challenge us. Over a period of time we were only beaten once in 25 games! We became THE pair to beat and, as the winners normally paid for the lunch, we began to wonder if the food and wine was more important to the opposition than winning! Sean is a great competitor and loves to win. I am very similar in attitude so between the two of us we made a formidable partnership."

The Toni Dalli Story

Toni was a golfing enthusiast and was still playing competitively when he moved to Marbella. He played with virtually every celebrity that visited Marbella in those days. If he was not in his restaurant entertaining the constant flow of famous personalities that visited Marbella, he could be found on the golf course with Sean Connery, who also had a home in Marbella at that time. He said "I love my golf. It has become a big part of my social life and I have met, over the years, some of the nicest guys you could ever wish to meet. I am blessed to be able to play on some of the very best courses in Europe…I love to play Sotogrande, Aloha, Las Brisas, Los Naranjos and San Roque. When Jimmy Tarbuck brought me over to Marbella I didn’t even realise the place existed! I have seen it grow, from early beginnings, to being the Nº1 golf venue in Europe."

The Toni Dalli Story Toni and his wife Valierie in the 1960x sitting in the classic Maserati

Toni and his sons were founders of the Ferrari Owners Club of Andalucía and many can remember the trips and adventures they had.

The Toni Dalli Story In pole position! The Ferrari Owner’s Club ready for the off!

Toni was also a great family man and along with his beloved wife Valerie, raised four children. "I am fortunate enough to have four lovely kids and eight wonderful grandchildren who are all well and healthy…As long as I can entertain I will be available to put back a little that I have I have been fortunate enough to acquire over the years…"

The Toni Dalli Story Left: With beloved with Valerie, just engaged! Right: Opening of Pasta & Pizza factory in 1987

Toni’s three sons, Marco, Simon and Nicky all entered the world of catering. In 1987 they opened their first Pasta & Pizza factory in Puerto Banus. Three other restaurants followed in quick succession in Marbella, Puerto Banús and Málaga.

The Toni Dalli Story Stirling Moss, Honorary President of the Ferrari Owner’s Club, in the Monza bar with Toni and his sons
The Toni Dalli Story

Marco Dalli has now taken on his father’s mantle and not only promotes Marbella as a destination, but also helps people establish themselves in the city with his extensive network of contacts.

The business of "Toni Dalli & Associates" is still in family hands. Toni would be proud.