$149 for a five-course prix fixe dinner for two ($250 value)
- Chef’s choice of palate-teaser
- Antipasti: choice of vitello tonnato, crudita di pesce, shrimp-stuffed calamari, or baked ricotta
- Primi: choice of duck lasagne, gluten-free pasta, pesto maltagliati, or gnocchi with prosciutto
- Secondi: choice of fish of the day, branzino, lobster risotto, beef short ribs, chicken alla diavola, or veal piccata
- Chef’s choice of dessert
- Glass of prosecco or wine for each guest
- For full details on each dish, see the menu.
In an age of celebrity chefs, it’s not often that a restaurant is instead famed for its proprietor. But Valentino, one of the premier Italian restaurants outside of Italy, is synonymous with founder Piero Selvaggio. Piero opened the flagship Santa Monica location in 1972, and over the years has twice earned a Michelin star as well as a dozen James Beard Award nominations (including two wins) for his thoroughly curated selection of imported ingredients, cheeses, and wines. Wine Spectator once said, “There are great restaurateurs, and then there is Piero Selvaggio, the consummate host with the uncanny ability to know exactly what you want to have for dinner even before you do.” His efforts have hardly let up, as he has been honored with James Beard nominations for Outstanding Restaurateur in both 2012 and 2013.
The crown jewel of Piero’s Santa Monica location is undoubtedly the wine cellar, which Wine Spectator called “the greatest wine cellar of them all.” It has received the publication’s prestigious Grand Award every year since 1981, which isn’t surprising considering the collection has included as many as 130,000 bottles from 2,800 different labels. Patrons might find anything from a less than $50 varietal to a $25,000 bottle of Brunello Biondi-Santi Riserva from 1891. Of course, Piero doesn’t expect everyone to be a connoisseur; the aforementioned article suggests that for ordering, “the best course might be to close the wine list…tell Selvaggio how much you want to spend, and just settle back.” The varietals are mostly Italian, French, and Californian in an effort to complement the menu.
From the kitchen, Chef Piero Selvaggio nurtures a menu that balances Italian classics with newer creations. The regular dinner menu features veal ossobuco and lasagna with duck ragu, while the more adventurous five-course chef’s tasting menu might include Italian-style sashimi or pan-roasted quail. No wonder Wolfgang Puck once told the James Beard Foundation that Valentino is his favorite place to eat for special occasions.