Valentino's Italiana Cucina
Name: Stephen Scott
Occupation: Building Director
Lives in: Fort Lauderdale
Restaurant Pick: Valentino’s
Restaurant Reviewed: Valentino’s on 1/21/12 at 8:00pm
This is the proverbial hidden gem “fine dining experience” found in an unexpected place. The high quality of the food is unique …seriously good! The ingredients could not be any fresher. The menu is adventurous through their MANY specials, but there are wonderful standbys on the regular menu that shouldn’t be ignored. I also love the open kitchen where you can watch Chef Giovanni do his thing.
With tax and tip (including wine), our meal came to just over $100 per person. We certainly did not hold back in terms of our order, but there is no doubt that Valentino’s has become pricey. You get very good value for your money, however.
Valentino’s is a hidden gem. It’s high end dining without the pretense. The menu is varied and changing constantly via the extensive list of specials. The food and drink are consistently excellent. While on the one hand it is a “foodie paradise” with a creative evolving menu, it’s also perfectly suited for family special occasions.
Name: Roxana Cocina
Occupation: Art Teacher
Lives in: Miami
Restaurant Pick: Madroño
Restaurant Reviewed: Valentino’s on 1/28/12 at 8:30 pm
On Saturday January 28, 2012 at 7:00 pm, I pulled out of my Miami drive way along with two foodie girl friends our mission Valentino’s in Fort Lauderdale! A few days earlier I had made reservations for three for 8:30 pm. The woman on the phone was very friendly and professional. The drive from Miami to was quite easy and did not take as long as I thought. Plus, we didn’t get lost as my girlfriends and I usually do when we cross the Dade- Broward line. Actually, we arrived 30 minutes early, thinking it would be fine just to sit at the bar and wait.
As we drove up we found Valentino’s on the corner of an assuming strip mall next to a phone store and nail salon and its parking lot only luxury cars and a continuous row of yellow cabs dropping off patrons. As we walked up to the door a large mass of people stood waiting outside. Inside, not much room either. After letting the very well dressed hostess know we were present, we ended up standing in the parking lot until we decided to drive across the street and wait at the Starbucks until 8:30pm.
Shortly, after returning from the coffee house we were seated in a large black booth around 8:45 pm. Immediately, a young man brought us a small plate with olives, cubed Italian cheese and a basket of bread. We ordered a half bottle of wine and two antipasti one from the regular menu and one from the specials. Steve our waiter informed us that Valentino’s was popular for the two selections we had made and that they were absolutely delicious. He was right! Afterwards, we ordered our main dishes and I selected the Brasato al Barolo: Short Ribs, cipollini onions, salisified over celery root purée, carrots and asparagus. A six inch mound of tender meat served over perfectly steamed vegetables. I would have enjoyed more of the celery root purée or vegetables and less of the meat. Later on at home I learned that this was a very popular Northern Italian dish.
After dinner my girlfriends decided to have coffee and dessert outside at a small cocktail table. Steve had no problem accommodating us. Our evening ended at that small cocktail table smoking cigarettes, drinking coffee and chatting away where we paid our big bill!
Name: Karen Friedman
Occupation: Urban Planner and Adjunct Professor
Lives in: Pompano Beach
Restaurant Pick: Sunrise Pita & Grill
Restaurant Reviewed: Valentino’s 1/28/12 at 7:00pm
Valentino’s is located in a small strip plaza on Federal Highway. While I have been to this plaza countless times, I never knew it was here. There is no signage, but from the lack of available tables it was apparent that its reputation excludes the need for any signage.
Luckily we had made reservations a few days in advance, because otherwise there was a long wait. There is no bar area, so if you have to wait, it will be outside in the parking lot. I went to the restaurant with my partner and our two friends and we were seated right away. The restaurant has an open kitchen and we were seated right in front of it. I enjoyed our location, but my partner’s chair was bumped into a couple times by servers. It is a small restaurant and we could tell that it operates like a family. Throughout the night several servers took our orders and delivered us food. Before we placed our order a server brought us a plate of cheeses and olives. The parmesan cheese and olives were a delicious start to a wonderful meal.
Once we opened the menu we noticed it was slightly different than the menu on the website. Also there were several daily specials. We asked our server about the change in menu and he explained the menu changes daily. He then advised that they had run out of scallops. We ordered three appetizers and each were delicious. Rather than serve all three appetizers at once, they served each appetizer separately. This was very nice and also meant the table did not get too crowded. Our appetizers were meatballs with goat cheese (which we thought had a subtle Indian/curry flavor), tortellini stuffed with veal (amazing!), and an arugula salad. Also three of us split a bottle of Pinot Grigio. My partner had Peroni beer. Often I find with more expensive restaurants that portions can be small; not at Valentino’s. Our entrees were generous. I had turbo fish with rock shrimp and cauliflower. My partner had the “Sunday Gravy” and our friends had the duck and the goat cheese chicken. I sampled each entrée and all were so delicious. My fish was light and savory. My partner is Italian and she exclaimed this was some of the best Italian food she has ever eaten. It is definitely not your typical Italian food. It is gourmet and fusion. When it was time to order dessert we wanted to know the daily flavor of gelato. So our server called into the kitchen and asked what the flavor of the day was! It turned out to be zemblioni, and it was deliciously served with caramel brioche! Also we ordered the tiramisu. Of course both were delicious.
The final bill, including tax and tip, was $290. Yes, it is a pricey restaurant, but the food was top notch. Due to the price I would not eat here weekly, or monthly. But I will definitely return here, especially to celebrate a special occasion. I would not say it is particularly romantic or family friendly. But it is a place to come with friends to eat gourmet Italian food.
Location: 620 S Federal Highway Fort Lauderdale, FL 33316
Type of Cuisine: Northern Italian
Meals Served: dinner only
Accommodations for Children: no