By now, you all know that I wanted to go to a restaurant that got a Michelin Star for my anniversary, and I am happy to say that I got what I wanted. Last week, my husband and I celebrated our first year married at Valentino in Santa Monica. Let me tell you, I know that I said that Peppone was the place to go for old school Italian, but this was OLD SKOOL. Valentino has been around for 35 years, and from the look of the waitstaff, there doesn’t seem to be much turnover. I spoke briefly to the manager there, who was very nice, and he said that when Valentino first opened they were nothing but a single room, complete with red checkered tablecloths. Today, Valentino has a large dining room, bar, and a party room, as well. The decor almost had a Turkish vibe, with a gold ceiling, plush booths, and bold chandeliers. The whole place felt very upscale, and you could literally smell the history (aka perfume and hairspray) in the air. To be honest, I am pretty sure my husband and I were the youngest people there.
When we were ready to order, there was a slight mix-up due to the menu being in Italian. My husband ordered the pork tenderloin with apples, and I heard the waiter ask him how he wanted his beef cooked. Luckily, I was able to intercept this near mishap, and all was well. Somehow, the manager must have heard about this, and he apologized profusely, blaming a post-turkey-day hangover. Even though we tried to explain it was not a big deal at all, he later took our dessert off of our bill - what service!
We were both very glad that my husband got the pork he wanted, because it was amazing. It was plated as three medallions, placed on impossibly thin rounds of apple, and between the pork was a stack of roasted vegetables and a stack of roasted sliced potatoes. Everything was laid out single-file on a rectangular plate - it was a beautiful presentation. The pork itself was cooked medium, and was tender and lightly pink inside. It truly melted in the mouth, and was delicious - and I usually don’t even like pork tenderloin.
I was equally enamored with our appetizer and my own entree. For our appetizer, we ordered the tono - seared tuna, thinly sliced over a bed of greens and cucumbers. I loved this, but my husband was only so-so. He is a sushi-lover (aren’t we all?) and the rare tuna just made him crave ponzu sauce instead of the vinaigrette. And, he isn’t much of a mixed-greens type of man. Oh well - I liked it!
For my entree, I ordered the verde risotto - this was delicious. Apparently, the same person has been manning the pasta station at Valentino for at least twenty years, and this risotto was a wonderful example of his abilities. It was full of flavor from all of the green herbs that were used, and it was mixed with asparagus and zucchini. The texture of the rice was creamy, but it was still al dante. And, there was a ton of it! I even had to take some home for a nice little snack the next day.
To end our meal on a sweet note, we went with the cannoli. I have to say, it isn’t often that you see this traditional Italian dessert on the menu at a fancy Italian restaurant. Normally, the old standby is tiramisu. I had actually never tried a cannoli before, but I have seen them made on the Food Network. I am so glad we chose this dessert, because it was delicious. The filling was creamy, the outside was crisp, and the pistachios were crunchy. It was on a bed of chocolate sauce, with a few sliced strawberries. It was decadent, but not heavy, and it was a perfect way to end our dinner.
Valentino is located in Santa Monica at 3115 Pico Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90405
Phone: (310) 829-4313
Note: I have to say, I felt very thankful last week. Not only did my husband and I have a feast that we prepared ourselves at home on Thanksgiving, but we also had a wonderful meal at a Michelin Star restaurant. Also, I want to thank all of you who gave me suggestions on where to eat, and to all of those who left such nice notes of congratulations.