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Mar 9, 2010 07:58 AM

Valentino still chowworthy?

Haven't been in years...had some great meals, and really disappointing ones in past...just got a blackboardeats email...30% off dinner...seemed like a good reason to try again..

Any recent reports?


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  1. Absolutely go again. We generally eat at the Vin Bar, but we are having a Valentino menu.

    From a dinner on February 13, 2010

    I decided to make Vin Bar/Valentino one category as we are not exactly having the Vin Bar menu – we are having what Piero and Chef Chessa wants us to have.

    Vin Bar/Valentino has a new chef – Nico Chessa from Sardinia. He has been at Valentino a month so the menu is in transition with traditional Valentino dishes, focusing on Piero’s Sicilian origins, but introducing Sardinian dishes.

    About the Chef – Executive Chef Nico Chessa
    “Raised on the island of Sardinia, Nico Chessa has worked throughout Italy, mastering the signature dishes of every region. He was privileged to be the executive chef for the gala reopening of the Sistine chapel in 1996, where he had the honor to serve Pope John Paul II. Joining the Valentino Restaurant Group in 2003, after leading the kitchens of high profile restaurants in Houston and Washington, D.C., Chessa has long catered to a clientele of world-leaders, entertainers and notable dignitaries. Acclaimed for his Sardinian-style food by award-winning journalist John Mariani, Chessa’s charismatic presence has brought him an added following as frequent guest chef for the premier Crystal Cruise Line.”

    From here:

    In any case, Piero is intent on updating Valentino and not resting on his well-deserved laurels. This is a restaurant that is always evolving with probably one of the best service Front of the House teams, led by the ever-present Piero.

    Last night, the day before Valentine’s Day, can only be described as a zoo. We sat at the entrance in Vin Bar and somehow Piero managed the constant stream of diners; it was like watching dozens of clowns at the circus emerging from a tiny car. Somehow Piero expertly and magically made it all appear “easy.”

    All wine pairings were done by Piero and extraordinary. We started with champagne –

    With Nico Chessa as the new chef, we were treated to some typical Sardinian dishes.

    Zucchini flower, Taleggio cheese, fried quail egg, diced tomato, winter black truffle – the zucchini flower was stuffed with the cheese plus there was a “sauce” of the cheese surrounding the flower. A wonderful combination of earthy truffles and runny cheese.

    Salad of Sardinian Fregula (almost like couscous) with chunks of lobster, beets and julienned blood orange rind. The fregula with the lobster was a study in texture , with the beets and the orange adding just the right “top-note.”

    Spinach Tagliatini with sea urchin and cherry tomatoes and a sauce from the juice of the tomato and olive oil – everyone knows that I love sea urchin so for me, what’s not to love. Terrific.

    A word about all the pasta we were served. Vin Bar/Valentino excels at pasta. They are all made in-house and are cooked to perfection. I honestly can say no one does pasta better than Vin Bar/Valentino.

    Bucatini pasta with calamari and bottarga. I think this was made by forcing it through a chitarra – a set of closely strung strings that looks very much like the strings of a guitar as Piero made reference to chitar.

    Branzino with langoustino filet both cooked and raw, sautéed apple on top, langoustine sauce, pistachio, basil olive oil and a touch of pepper.

    Hand-made Strozzapreti (priest’s chokers) with Sausage, Sun-dried Tomato and Pecorina Cheese. In an earlier post I explained that it is called “priest chokers” because centuries ago, it was common practice to let priests eat for free in restaurants. Wishing to get rid of the “freeloaders”, chefs rolled the pasta in such a way with the hope that the pasta would get lodged in the priest’s throat and choke. We devoured this dish and didn’t choke!

    First assorted sorbets of prickly pear, coconut, strawberry and Barlett pear

    Then an assortment of pastries
    Pasta di Mandorle
    Almond Praline
    Chocolate Truffle

    Vin Bar/Valentino is so much more than a special occasion restaurant. The wine pairings are fantastic. The cuisine is new and exciting – this is not a stuffy restaurant. It really needs to be added as a must and get the “foodie” attention it deserves.

    Pics here:

    10 Replies
    1. re: lizziee

      They just sent out a 30% off coupon from Groupon that can be used for dinner with no weekend restrictions. I haven't been in about a year but it's a good opportunity to revisit them. My friends who live much closer to Valentino go there about once a quarter and still rave and say it's the best Italian in LA.

      1. re: js76wisco

        How can i get me one of these coupons?

          1. re: lizziee

            Sorry I meant Blackboard Eats not Groupon - getting all of my online coupon/discount sites all mixed up. Thanks Lizzie.

            1. re: lizziee

              Your link to, when clicked on the Valentino offer, reads:

              "passcodes for this special are no longer available"


              1. re: RicRios

                You missed out on Valentino's, you have a day to get the password. I had the same thing happen to me when I signed up and missed out on Josie's. So my advice, sign up now. I also signed up at the same time for New York. Would love to hear about people's experience using the passcodes!!

                  1. re: MarlaPR

                    I've used passcodes at Josie and St. Amour -- no problem and service with a smile at both.

                    1. re: ElissaInPlaya

                      This gives me hope! Going for Valentino's in the next two weeks and will report back!

                    2. re: MarlaPR

                      The passcodes are the best! Everyone has been super nice about accepting them & giving great food & service. I wouldn't have tried certain places without them & I'm so glad I did. Give it a go!

          2. I have a blackboardeats coupon for Valentino. I've never used one of them, and I see that you must give the code at time of reservation or when you enter.

            Question: Is a person with a code for 30% off going to get a lesser meal than someone paying full price? Or is everyone treated equal? Or, you'll never know?

            It's the"'before" that I question, and not submitting the code when asking for the bill.

            10 Replies
            1. re: toitoi

              Please fall on the grenade.
              And don't forget to report back.

              1. re: RicRios

                I have heard on their website it is sooo easy. And remember...Hurt Locker won!! Good luck and keep us posted!

                1. re: MarlaPR

                  You're replying to toitoi, I hope.

                  1. re: RicRios

                    Gee, RicRios, don't you relish paroxysms?

                    1. re: toitoi

                      Tell you what: email me the coupon & I'll bite the bullet.

                      1. re: RicRios

                        A charitable soul took care of my longings.
                        Got thru the compassionate assistance of a Honorable Board Member da Magic Passcode. Went to V with Spousal Unit.
                        I must confess, it was Spec-tacular.
                        4-course tasting consisting of:
                        Stuzzichini ( aranchino + salmon roll ) : OK.
                        Seafood salad : VERY good
                        Seafood risotto: AMAzingly good
                        Salmone al pepe nero: this is a chapter apart. ONLY a SARDINIAN chef
                        can cook such a sublime dish. A few days ago tried the sous-vide salmon conconction @ Bastide, highly lauded in this board. Sorry folks, that's sous-vide BS big time. The Valentino version is DA real thing, no gimmicks, just plain old traditional wise cooking.
                        All washed down with the old Lombardia rival of champagne: FRANCIACORTA. Pretty much unknown in these shores, more than decent match to so many Champagnes. And at $60 greenbucks ( restaurant price BEFORE discount )? Puhleeze!
                        Total damage for 2 w/30% discount, including tax & wine & Fernet & before tip: $164
                        NOTA BENE: all of the above depends upon said SADININAN chef. Who might be gone tomorrow early to open his own place, whose nose.
                        So long as he's still there, RUN!

                        Service: as good as it gets.
                        Discount code: entered w/ reservation @ - no further questions.

                        Sorry, forgot the cannoli. I doubt you'll find something similar in Palermo.
                        Well, for sure NOT in Palermo. Not in Roma or Parma or Bologna or ... wherever I've tried to find it in the past and miserably failed. Lo & behold, found it finally on this rundown stretch of Pico Blvd.
                        Such a perfect crispy, fresh, airy cannolo, filled with.. what? tasty spongy cheesy & creamy air? Please keep in mind U$S 10.00 is about 7 Euro & change.

                        Bottom line: I'm happier than a dog w/ 2 tails.

                        1. re: RicRios

                          RicRios - I think the new Sardinian chef will be there for quite some time as he has worked for Piero in Vegas before coming to Santa Monica. Agree - run don't walk to Valentino.

                2. re: RicRios

                  I went, I ate, and I was not impressed.

                  We started with the off-menu suggestion of crudo – 3 pieces of fish in olive oil: salmon, tuna, and I believe yellowtail. A tiny piece of citrus fruit placed on top: grapefruit, blood orange, and perhaps, tangerine.

                  When Mario Batali & Joe Bastianich opened Esca in NYC, they brought crudo to the USA, and I was there. What Valentino served, and what I have eaten often at Esca are worlds apart. The 3 fish at Valentino tasted alike, absolutely no flavor variation.

                  For our second, we had, from the regular menu, Risotto Nero – squid ink, seafood medley. This was superb – 5 star cooking.

                  We had a glass of Vermintino with the first and second.

                  For our third, I had, from the menu-of-the-day, Guance al vitello con lenticchie – Veal cheeks atop lentils. Nothing special about the veal - could have been any stew meat, and the lentils were watery. My dining partner had Scaloppine Marsala, which I tasted – it was overcooked and tough. Wine: Rosso di Montalcino.

                  We had coffee, no dessert. $182 before discount, tax, and tip. Won’t be visiting again. Really dislike the low-level pink lighting of the back room where we sat. Guess it's the old folks dining room; making everyone look ravishing.

                  1. re: toitoi

                    Thanks for taking one for the chowhound team!!

                3. re: toitoi

                  I don't know if this is a an accurate gauge or not, but when I went for DineLA in January 09, I definitely felt like we received lesser service because we were ordering off the Dine LA menu. I would hope that's not the case when you go in, but the service and meal were substandard enough that I didn't bother getting that blackboard eats passcode, even though I've had very good experiences with the passcodes elsewhere. Still, f you go, I'll be interested to hear how it goes and hope you have better luck.

                4. I would say no. I don't think Valentino's been either relevant or notable for quite some time.

                  1. We went last Friday night and had a great time. I don't know if it was because of the guest-chef or the fact that my dining companion was Italian, but the food was great, and service was prompt and friendly. We also used the 30% off coupon, which applied to food only (not to the wine). Two thumbs up!