* Click here for rating key
Valentino Cucina Italiana Restaurant Review: “Location, location, location”: It’s said to be of prime importance to real estate --- and it is to restaurants, too, judging from Valentino’s. For many years chef/owner Giovanni Rocchio cooked his contemporary Italian cuisine plus some hearty Italian-American classics in a low-profile strip-mall space. But Valentino’s has since moved to much-expanded and stylish quarters, with a huge open kitchen and chic bar. The menu remains much the same, though, with less emphasis on old favorite belly-busters like rigatoni with “Sunday gravy.” Dominating the spotlight are more modern and unique dishes such as a large raviolo designed to resemble a fried egg --- a delicate mushroom-stuffed pasta “yolk,” taleggio cream “egg white” and coffee powder “pepper.” Pay particular attention to the numerous daily specials, many featuring both invention and luxe ingredients, like a lemon grass and ginger-spiced shellfish/pork broth enriched with foie gras butter and lightened with lemon. Desserts, from Norman Van Aken protégé Max Santiago, include candied bacon gelato and the blueberry-stuffed bombolini with lemon/honey ricotta sauce. The wine list, though dominated by Italian bottles, is extensive and expensive with a few moderate choices. A contemporary mixology program featuring syrups made from fresh herbs and produce makes cocktails more sophisticated than at old-fashioned Italian eateries.