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Nov 2, 2008 08:45 AM

Valentino's the best!

We had an absolutely perfectly wonderful dinner at Valentino last evening. In our opinion, this restaurant is head and shoulders over any other Italian restaurant in southern CA, and is surely one of the very best restaurants in LA.

Valentino was outstanding in every way! The dining rooms are attractive with comfortable seating, good lighting and the tables are spaced adequately so that restaurant is reasonably quiet. The servers are professional, pleasant, capable and most importantly, very knowledgeable about the food and wine they are serving.

Most importantly however, the food is awesome. We started by splitting a wonderful grilled apple salad and a delicious wild mushroom timbale both of which were outstanding. We then split an order of pumpkin ravioli with fresh white truffle shavings. This was absolutely scrumptious beyond belief; we felt we had died and gone to heaven! We both had fish for our entrees...halibut and branzino. Both were cooked perfectly with beautiful presentation and sauces. At this point, because we had several smaller appetizer courses plus very substantial entrees, and eaten much of the terrific bread, we were quite sated and thus finished off with just coffee and "a plate of cookies". The later was a wonderful presentation and consisted of multiple different goodies all of which were great.

Incidentally, we started with cocktails which were perfectly prepared. Of course, the wine list is outstanding and wine service was excellent. Additionally, when we told our server that we were going to share the first three starter courses, he arranged to have the kitchen split them for us. The presentation of each was perfect, and there was no additional charge for splitting.

This was our first visit to Valentino, but our meal was as close to perfect as it gets. If Valentino is consistently this good, there is no Italian restaurant in L.A. that can touch it!

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  1. Valentino is one of my favorite restaurants in LA. Their quality has been improving over the past couple of years.

    1. Valentino is an exceptional restaurant. For food, wine and service, it blows away almost all of the Italian pretenders. But let's get real. It is on the north side of Pico west of where the Santa Monica freeway crosses and before Santa Monica College, in an area that is slowly being regentrified. The restaurant has no presence from the street -- you have to know it is there. And josephni, you omitted any mention of the tab -- cocktails, wine, three split starters and then two fish entrees and coffee and cookies -- my guess is that you were over $100 per person for one cocktail, food, tax and tip, before we even factor in the cost of wine plus. And wine at Valentino can easily surpass the other costs.

      This is NOT a criticism. I'm not saying Valentino is not worth it -- to the contrary, I'd much rather spend my money there rather than some of the pretenders on San Vicente in Brentwood that approximate the cost without approaching the quality and level of care.

      9 Replies
      1. re: nosh

        Like it or not, that's a criticism.

        1. re: nosh

          You are absolutely right...I should have mentioned the cost but didn't! Yes, quality this terrific does not come cheap. Our tab with tax and a generous (> 20%) tip was $130pp....and we brought our own wine and thus only paid corkage ($30). Obviously, Valentino is expensive, and for most (us included) will be only a special occasion treat. Yes, it was expensive, but we never feel bad when we spend a lot of money but have a wonderful meal. It's when we have a bad experience, regardless of the cost, that we regret having wasted money.

          1. re: josephnl

            We were also at Valentino last night and have to agree it was wonderful. They were very busy with large parties and our service for two was absolutely perfect. We sit at the Vin Bar, but essentially have a Valentino menu.

            Pics here:

            1. re: lizziee

              I can't believe that my one and only (it was THAT bad) experience at Valentino is the same place as in your pictures. It does look good, and I may finally give it another try. The time I went was so bad, I sent Piero a letter. He personally wrote back offering to host us the next time we visit, and still I wouldn't go.

              1. re: cls

                I have always had the best dinners at Valentino, its one of my favorite restaurants anywhere. The food is exceptional, the service is warm and professional, and now with the Vin Bar you can have a more casual and affordable dinner on nights that you don't feel like sitting in traffic afte work. I'm sorry to hear you had a bad experience, but I think the fact that the owner wrote you back speaks volumes since most places in LA wouldn't bother. I think you should give it another try.

          2. re: nosh

            Let's get real? That restaurant has been there for 35 years. It's nice that it gets mentioned, versus the 20th review of the latest trendy tapas, bistro, hamburger or steak restaurant with a celebrity chef.

            1. re: mlgb

              Right on! Mozza (both of them) get so much press because they are new and have celebrity chefs. IMHO Mozza isn't in the same league as any, ambiance, service...and certainly not when it comes to hospitality. The gracious staff made us feel truly welcome. I guess that's why they've been around for 35 years!

              1. re: josephnl

                ha, so pinks has been around for 65 years, does that make it better than valentinos?
                el coyote has been around 40-50 years? hmmm, best mexican in LA. guess i'll go again and maybe it won't be the most disgusting food (regardless of nationality) in los angles, hell, it's been there so long, its got to be amazing.
                pinks, valentinos, el coyote. best food in town.

          3. The original comment has been removed
            1. I feel bad saying this and maybe I went on an off night but your experience with Valentino was 180 degrees from the one I had. The food was totally eh, and the service was GOD AWFUL, to the point of being a complete embarrassment. I would never even think about going back. All Angelo is so much better. Soooooo much better. Not even in the same league.

              1. why was my post deleted?

                Valentino's time has passed. There is now much better Italian food in Los
                Angeles. Maybe in 1979, they could get away with such pretentious behavior,
                but this is 2009. From the overhyped, oversized and overpriced wine list,
                to the "yes, we allow you to be graced with our presence" attitude,
                everything about this restaurant makes me want to eat elsewhere. The food
                is actually quite good, not great but very good. Fresh made pastas are a
                hard thing to come by, and for that I am grateful they do still have that
                going for them. Braised shanks on the otherhand, were served cold and very
                bland. Steaks were served and cooked properly, but that isn't exactly
                rocket science, is it?
                Another problem I have with their menu, is that there seems to be no
                regional specificity to their offerings. Italian greatest hits for foodie
                tourists is what it felt like.
                I know this isn't the friendliest of first posts, but there probably have
                been worse. But this restaurant was probably my biggest culinary letdown of
                all time.
                List of Italian restaurants better than Valentinos:
                La Botte, Piccolo, Via Veneto, All'Angelo, Angelini Osteria, La Terza,
                Melograno and Il Moro

                Ironically none of these restaurants are cheaper and maybe some might be a
                tad more but generally priced in the same range and all of which have
                always been friendly, courteous and professional, from the chefs to the
                wait staff to the bus staff.

                9 Replies
                1. re: humara

                  I disagree totally, and from many of the responses above I am not alone in thinking that Valentino is one of the finest Italian restaurants in southern CA. I am familiar with some, but not all of the restaurants on humara's list, and of those I know, I think that none is in the same league as Valentino from either food, service or ambiance. Sheila1, you must have gone on a really off night!

                  1. re: josephnl

                    what restaurants on my deleted again list do you not think are in the same league as valentino and what do you base that assesment on? Clearly Valentino still can deliver on the food, since they have a michelin star just like la botte. Maybe I just happened to go on several bad nights and maybe luck of the draw left me with bad waiters on each occasion.
                    But since you didn't list specifics about which of those places food doesn't compare to valentino's I can only surmise that you're generalizing or somehow convinced that there can only be one good Italian place in town.

                    1. re: humara

                      Although All'Angelo and Angelini both serve very good food, in my opinion the overall experience at these two is not in a league with Valentino. If you had poor service at Valentino, perhaps you did go on an off night...or perhaps, I have been simply lucky on the three or four occasions I have been there. I much prefer the ambiance and service at Valentino, and truly can't believe that anyone would prefer going to O. Mozza (see peppermonkey below) over Valentino. But, of course I believe it. Opinions represent subjective evaluations, and we each differ not only in what we like, but in our priorities.

                    2. re: josephnl

                      I totally agree with you Joseph, Valentino is superb, and I have never been disappointed after many dinners there over the years. The places Sheila listed may be newer, but the quality just simply does not compare to Valentino, and without being critical I can recall dinners at a couple of them that were less than average.

                    3. re: humara

                      I agree. Valentino's is not one of the best Italian restaurants in LA. Though I did have good service and I thought the wine pairing from sommelier, Paul Sherman, was great. It actually made the food that was rather bland on it's own taste much better. But the food should be able to stand up without the wine. Osteria mozza is much better.

                      1. re: peppermonkey

                        Paul Sherman is amazing... he is a great Sommelier... however I think the food is much better than you are giving credit... Valentino is about the experience as a whole. The food, like the wine is just a component...

                      2. re: humara

                        Maybe it was deleted because you posted the exact same thing verbatim in another thread. We get it, you hate Valentino. No need to spam.

                        My one experience with Valentino was okay but not great. The standout by far was the pasta, best pasta I've ever had. I've been meaning to go back and give it another shot, but someplace else always came up instead.

                        1. re: mrhooks

                          Thanks for the help, it does make sense. Perhaps you should actually read the post before jumping all over it. I do not hate Valentino, it's just there are at least 7-8 WAY better restaurants in town. (which I named) and believe formed a fairly valid opinion.

                          1. re: humara

                            I never said your opinion was invalid (did you read MY post?). But it obviously is negative, given the adjectives in your post (which I did read), so don't get so defensive when someone else also chooses to use a bit of hyperbole.

                            Also, it wasn't just your words, but your repetition of those words which suggested how much you dislike Valentino.