Valentino ? Been lately ?
What's a good game plan in approaching it ?
Especially for the drawn out and exciting tasting menu if one does not know Pierro personally or rather well.
Get a tasting menu in the bar. If you don't like what's on it, tell him what you want and they will accommodate you. It's a very, very accommodating restaurant.
First time I ever went there I remember Pierro telling me the specials and how they could modify this or that - just get you want you want. Always been like that. One of their strengths.
And the food is never bad.
I went about three months back with a group in the main restaurant. We all enjoyed it and it was as good as usual.
I prefer to order a la carte. I find that the carte blanche to them can end up more expensive. One can have a great experience that way, but at a high price. I actually don't recall whether they had a prix fixe menu in the main room the night we were there. I have heard others suggest a menu done in the bar, but I have never had a full meal there.
Strongly disagree. IMHO neither Drago Centro nor Osteria Mozza are in a league with Valentino. I recently had a very mediocre meal at DC...stale rolls, poor service and meh food, whereas I've always had at least very good food and service at Valentino. Nevertheless, my favorite LA Italian is Madeo, and although I've not been, many CH's really like Il Grano.
It has been quite a few years now since I have been (purely a function of the distance from the OC, the often-horrendous traffic that is metropolitan LA and the fact that we just don't have that many fine-dining opportunities), but I think it is still safe to say this:
It does not really matter if you know Pierro Selvaggio when you come here - he is the consummate host, and will do what he can to make you feel comfortable, welcome and happy. That's the magic of the place, for me. I remember coming here once with my wife for our anniversary, and in a corner booth I noticed a party with a very very prominent LA figure, and they were clearly ordering some very nice, expensive wines etc. The thing is, Mr Selvaggio, his "captain", the wine master, and everyone made us feel just as important and special as the Broad party.
Go, enjoy, have fun !