Archive for the 'Valentino – Santa Monica' Category


We are lucky to have friends, Sybil and Simon who enjoy and savor food and wine as much as we do. Simon Majumdar needs no introduction given his frequent appearances on The Food Network and his best selling books Eat My Globe and Eating for Britain. He is about to embark on a trip around the world with Sybil, his beautiful and talented wife with some time-out time to write his newest book Fed White and Blue – his incredible journey to American Citizenship. We were thrilled they joined us at Valentino, one of our most favorite restaurants and to me the best Italian restaurant in Los Angeles. Piero orchestrated the wines and Chef Nico devised the menu. Many of the dishes Chef Nico brought out himself and explained what we were eating in rapid Italian. Trying to take notes was futile but to demonstrate how tremendous and gracious Chef Nico is he sent me via email the menu in English. That is going above and beyond to the utmost degree!

Bottom line – this was a fantastic meal with exquisite wines, exceptional food and terrific, entertaining friends. I have added some additional notes to Nico’s menu to give you a sense of the exceptional quality of the ingredients, the perfect execution and where necessary a brief description of Italian terms.

Vin first wine

First Wine

Vin uni

Catalina Island sea urchin on lemon-prosecco sgroppino ( a boozy Italian smoothie made with lemon and prosecco – my words not Nico’s) – I love sea urchin – Chef Nico knows this – what a perfect beginning

Vin beef tartare

Little Bite of beef crudo and white truffle Albese style – a one bite wonder

Vin pata negra

Fermin patanegra on fettaunta, a rustic bread rubbed with heirloom tomato and unfiltered Sardinian olive oil – this is when first rate ingredients shine

My addition to Chef Nico’s menu notes: “Two years of air curing and aging in the mountain breeze allows the complexity and flavors of this incomparable Ibérico ham to develop and deepen. In the indigenous oak forest and savanna-like grassland dehesas of southwestern Spain, the Ibérico hog, a descendant of the wild boar, finds its natural habitat. Popularly known as the Pata Negra, or Black Hoof, the Ibérico breed’s characteristics are responsible for the unsurpassed taste and quality of this traditional dry-cured pork ham. Produced by the Fermin family, the original exporters of Ibérico hams to the US.”

Vin - second wine

Second Wine

Vin furst pastaDSC07348

Calamarata paella style of conch, seppie, shrimp, guanciale, chicken, frog legs and Romanesco beans – Calamarata is a wide tubular pasta shaped like a large ring – a perfect combination of exceptional ingredients

VIN - pici

Pici with grappa-thyme wild boar and fiore Sardo pecorino – pici is a thick, hand-rolled pasta that originated in the province of Siena in Tuscany. “Fiore Sardo is produced on the island of Sardinia off the coast of Italy. This is a cheese with very ancient origins, thought by some to date back to the Bronze Age. Partly as a result of this, Fiore Sardo was awarded DOP (name protected) status in 1996. Although there are now industrially produced variations of Fiore Sardo that are sometimes made from a blend of cow’s and sheep’s milk or even pasteurized milk, traditionally Fiore Sardo is made from fresh, unpasteurized sheep’s milk, sourced from native Sardinian sheep from a single flock.”

Vin- third wine

Third Wine

Vin - rabbit

Black truffles and green apples stuffed rabbit with its own demi and grilled polenta – there is no way that words can convey how delicious this way plus handled with finesse

VIN - duck

Roasted Muscovy duck breast with grape sauce and porcini – equally perfect

VIN - cheese

Formaggi – La Tour caw –  sheep and goat milk creamy goodness from Piedmont and Moliterno Tartufato – sheep milk truffle cheese from Sardinia and the southern coast of Italy

VIN - dessert wine

Dessert Wine

VIN - dessert

Dolci –  Pear sorbet, cannoli and chocolate cake

What a meal!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Absolutely A+++++


I have said this many times before but it bears repeating – Valentino is the BEST Italian restaurant in Los Angeles. Piero Selvaggio ranks as one of the finest restaurateurs in the country. Chef Nico Chessa is absolutely a genius – his execution is faultless. We are very lucky as we never look at a menu and we always rely on Piero to choose our wine from his extensive wine list. The wines this night were outstanding with the truffles. We could’t have picked a more perfect time to go to Valentino – they just got white truffles from Alba. Many restaurants will serve you truffles but few serve the real thing – Alba white truffles of the finest quality.

Vin - first wine

First Wine

Vin- meatball

This was described as a meatball – a complete misnomer! This was marinated prime beef served like steak tartare topped with Alba white truffles. We were instructed to eat this in one bite – a wondrous one bite wonder.

Vin swordfish

Swordfish Carpaccio, Crab Salad marinated with citrus olive oil on a bed of sliced mango, sliced heirloom tomato and dabs of raspberry sauce – a creative dish with impeccable ingredients handled with finesse – A+

Vin - second wine

Second Wine

Vin - bean salad

Fagioli (beans), Puntarelle, Porcini Mushrooms topped with Black Truffles from Umbria. Puntarelle “is a classic Roman dish; the word puntarelle is Roman argot, and until fairly recently there was a certain amount of discussion outside of Rome as to what puntarelle are. Turns out they’re chicory shoots of a variety known as Catalogna, picked while still young and tender.”

Vin - flan

Lousy photo – great dish! A flan of cardones, Jerusalem Artichokes, Cheese topped with Alba white truffles – I was in truffle heaven!

Vin - cardone

The Cardone

Vin - 3rd wine

Third Wine

Vin chesnut crepe

Chestnut Crespelle (crepes), Radicchio on a bed of fondue parmesan sauce topped with Alba White Truffles – there are no words to describe how good this was

Vin - raviola

Ravioli stuffed with ricotta and “something” (can’t read my notes), butter and sage topped with Alba White Tuffles – this was mind-blowing

Vin - 4th wine

Fourth Wine

Vin - pigeon

Pigeon breast marinated in pineapple on a  bed of squash gnocchi – terrific combination of flavor and texture

Vin - cheese

La Tur Cheese with Candied Walnuts

Vin - dessert

Sorbet – lemon, pear, mango, prickly pear, raspberry

Vin - more dessert

Sweets to end – after a lot of wine I stopped writing!

This was a sensational meal with A+ service. It doesn’t get better than this. Run don’t walk to Valentino – you just won’t get a better meal anywhere in Los Angeles or for that matter the country.


Valentino is the finest Italian restaurant in Los Angeles. I state this emphatically. You can expect superb cuisine executed to perfection. You know that only the finest ingredients will be used. The service is always A+. The wine list is extraordinary. I strongly urge everyone to go and just let Chef Nico and Piero do their “magic.”

Chef Nico and one of the best restauranteurs in the country – Piero.

Chef Nico devised a special menu for us that he labeled “Surf and Turf”

Prosciutto di Agnello (lamb), Melon and Ricotta Salata – a lovely combination

All wines were chosen by Piero – first wine of the evening

On the left Angus Beef Carpaccio with yellow tomato and orange oil. On the right thinly sliced Yellowtail, cucumber and anchovy colature (brine) and sliced cucumbers – light and delicate and an excellent example of “surf and turf.”

On the left Tongue Braciola – this was a one bite wonder – Chef Nico had used the stuffing of a Braciola and placed the tongue on top. On the right Grilled Cuttlefish on a bed of Cous Cous Sicilian style – this had strong hints of an African influence and both were an incredible pairing of taste and texture

Second wine

On the left Borlotto Bean Soup with mixed vegetables, veal and beef meatballs, parmesan – rich and hearty. On the right fresh corn soup with grilled shrimp wrapped in pancetta – light with a huge flavor punch.

On the left risotto with lobster and crab – delicious. On the right pappardelle pasta with wild mushrooms, speck and parmesan – another wonderful juxtaposition of meat to fish

Third wine

On the left poppy seed encrusted Royal Dorade that had been sautéed, basil, garlic and topped with onion. On the right oxtails on a bed of mashed parmesan potato. Both were fantastic but we were getting quite full and took most of the oxtails home. Piero had the kitchen add extra potato and I think oxtails so our dinner the next night was spectacular.

This is a restaurant that should be on everyone’s must go list. You just won’t get better Italian food anywhere as good as this in Los Angeles.


We were extremely lucky to secure reservations for an exclusive visit by Dario Cecchini, the renowned butcher from Panzano in Chianti, hosted by Valentino. It was an extraordinary evening.  Many of the cities finest food writers were there and I can only describe the evening as a tremendous party hosted by one of the great restauranteurs in the country, Piero Selvaggio.

The evening took me back to the late 80′s – the glory days of the Los Angeles Dining scene - Jean Bertranou and his chef Michel Blanchet of L’Ermitage, Paul Bruggemans and his chef Camille Bardot of Le St Germaine, Bernard Jacoupy of Bernard’s, Mauro Vincenti of Rex Il Ristorante, Michel Richard of Citrus, Susumu Fukui at La Petit Chaya, Patrick Healy of Colette, Elka Gilmore of Camelions, Roy Yamaguchi of 385 North, Ken Frank of La Toque, John Sedlar of St. Estephe and later Bikini, Michael McCarty with Ken Frank and then Jonathan Waxman, Joachim Splichal first at Max au Triangle and then Patina, Patrick Terrail and Wolfgang Puck at Spago, L’Orangerie and of course Valentino who will be celebrating their 40th anniversary this year.

It was definitely an evening to remember and will remain in my memory as one of the greatest hits of dining experiences.

Piero  and Dario Cecchini


Non- Solociccia Menu

Roberto Cavalli Vodka with Rose Water


Pinzimonio di Verdure Croccanti e Olio Buono

Raw Garden Vegetables (purple, white, yellow carrots, celery, leeks, artichokes)

with the Best Olive Oil from Tuscany


Crostini di Natale - Holidays Meat Ragu Hot Crostini 

The beef was actually beef cheeks mixed with pureed vegetables

Movia Wine from Valentino’s List

We had a choice between 2 dishes served as Antipasto, Primo and Secondo – John and I choose different dishes so we could taste everything!


“Sushi” del Chianti Battuta al Coltello - A Crudo of Chianina Beef Tenderloin Thin Sliced and Tenderized with a Knife

“Tonno” del Chianti Cotto nel Vino Bianco – 
A Salad of Pulled Mule Foot Pork Poached with White Wine, Arugula, Cherry Tomato, House-made Italian dressing

Red Wine from Valentino’s List


Pici al Sugo di Chinghiale - Hand Rolled Thick Spaghetti with Wild Boar Ragu

Tortelli alla Mugellana
 - Potatoes Stuffed Ravioloni with Pecorino, Butter and Thyme


Arista in Porchetta al Fiore di Finocchio con Mischianza di Fagioli e Ceci all’Olio - Roasted Mulefoot Pork Loin with Garlic, Herbs, Wild Fennel Pollen and Tuscan Beans Salad

Costata alla Fiorentina Cotta alla Brace come “Dio Comanda” e Cartoccio di Patate al Burro del Chianti  - Chianina Beef Porterhouse Cooked on a Wood Burning Grill as “God’s Order” with Baked Potatoes with Lardo Spread 

Cheese Plate


Schiacciatine, Biscotti e Vin Santo


Throughout the evening the ever ebullient Dario “worked” the room and literally blew his own horn! He deserved to do so!

What an evening!!!! Oh for the glory days of LA’s dining scene of the 80′s. Valentino continues to remind us that those days are not completely dead! Thank you Piero!


We were invited to a special event at Valentino – “An Evening with the Umbrian Wines of The Briziarelli Estate.”

“Umbria an up and coming wine region where the Sagrantino di Montefalco grape varietal is one of the most sought after gem of central Italy, and the wines of Briziarelli are an example of great wine making in this ever growing wine region.”

“Cantine Briziarelli, based in Umbria, is part of Società Agricola Briziarelli and is affiliated with Fornaci Briziarelli Marsciano (FBM), one of the leading construction companies in Italy; one of the few in the country that provides a wide range of clay products. The company started in 1906 and is still going strong, now in the hands of its fourth generation. The Briziarelli family strongly links its name to the land where they extract the clay and this land that has given them appreciation all over the world is now giving them something else. Over the course of its 100 year history, FBM acquired different territories and one in an area that is ideal for wine making, between the towns of Bevagna and Montefalco in Umbria. “It all started with a bet… in 2002 the family decided to enter the wine scene and in 2009 the brand was officially recognized for its excellency by connoisseurs,”

The evening began with passed appetizers and Briziarelli Metodo Classico 2008



Smoked Salmon with mascarpone and caviar

Proscuitto and Salumi on breadsticks

We were then seated in the back dining room and saw a film that showed us the beautiful grounds of the Briziarelli Estate. Introductory remarks from the noted culinary journalist and gastronome Luigi Cremona and a daughter from the Briziarelli Estate set the tone for the evening.

Luigi Cremona

Ms Briziarelli stressed that this was a family business that never compromises on quality and celebrates their successes as a family. The evening was hosted by Societa’ Agricola Briziarelli SRL.  ”Societa’ Agricola Briziarelli has received a mark of excellency for its wine, and as a result has become a favorite of wine aficionados throughout Italy. Cantine Briziarelli’s next challenge is to bring its unique wines to the U.S. market.”

Seared Veal Carpaccio with Umbrian Extra Virgin Oil and Laurel paired with

Duna Robba 2010 -

Variety – 40% Merlot, 40% Sangiovese 20% Sagrantino

Tasting notes – “Ruby red color with purple veins, perfume is fresh with aromas of red fruits, green pepper and chocolate. The taste is dry, well balanced, with good tannins. Excellent drinkability, it combines complexity and structure.”

Agnollotti pasta carbonara with Fresh Black Truffles paired with

Uno Nove Zero Sei 2007

Variety – 25% Syrah, 25% Merlot, 25% Cabernet sauvignon, 25% Sagrantino

Tasting notes: The wine “has an intense purple color, with an enticing nose of terroir, ripe fruit, camphor and a touch of cinnamon. In the mouth it is rich and powerful, with a long, lingering finish.”

“UnoNoveZeroSei (1906) takes its name from the year of FBM’s foundation, so, needless to say that was an extremely important year for us and we always want to remember that.”

Artisanal Penne with a variety of sausages paired with

Rosso Mattone 2008

Variety-65% Sangiovese, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, 15% Sagrantino

Tasting Notes – “a clear, ruby red color. The nose has intense touches of blackberry, ripe cherry and a touch of cinnamon on the palate, the wine is perfectly balanced. Medium-bodied, soft and round with nice tannins. The aftertaste evokes fruit and notes of spice.”

“Rosso Mattone (the literal translation is brick red) is a clear tribute to clay, a material that is part of us, of our history.

Roasted Stuffed Suckling Pig with Wild fennel and Roasted Potatoes paired with

Vitruvio 2007

Variety – 100% Sagrantino

Tasting notes –  “intense ruby red color, perfume of (the nose gives off) decise jam berries, freshened by balsamic nuances, in the mouth is powerful and creamy, with a noble tannins well balanced by alcohol, long and complex finish.”

“Vitruvio is a tribute to the known Roman architect and writer that lived in the second half of the first century B.C. and was the most famous architecture theoretician of all times and one of the first to use clay for large constructions. We also take inspiration from Leonardo’s Vitruvian man. Leonardo’s drawing represents perfection of proportions and it was in honor of the architect.”

Cheese with its traditional condiments

Hazelnut-Choclate Semifreddo with Caramelized Bananas

It was a wonderful evening with lovely wines, food and company. Of course Piero is always the supreme host – no one does it better!

A final note re the Briziarelli Estate (comments from an event at Alta Cucina Society in New York)

The general consent at the presentation is that the US are more than ready to welcome these wines, but according to Edoardo Cucchia Briziarelli and his team there is no rush. “The philosophy that guides us through everything we do is that we always have to achieve high quality without any compromise. Our ingredients in wine production are predetermination, passion and no compromises,” he said while Roberto Ricci, head of marketing, continues, “We want to achieve the best quality possible, with time and patience. When grapes are harvested, then turned into wine and bottled, there is no rush to bring them on the market… they have to rest and be cuddled… they need the right time to achieve the desired quality without rushing things…”This philosophy is applied to sales as well, “we look for the best restaurants and retail shops as we are a niche product and we want to continue being one, we are not interested in the mass market.”

Original article here:



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