words by Carol King
Renowned restaurateur Piero Selvaggio is celebrating 40 years of running Valentino’s Italian restaurants in the USA.
On the 14th of November, Selvaggio is hosting a spectacular dinner at his Santa Monica, California restaurant comprising 40 dishes paired with 40 wines, inspired by the cooking of celebrated Sicilian chef Ciccio Sultano. Selvaggio is dedicating the event to the late pioneering restaurateur Mauro Vincenti, who owned the Rex il Ristorante in Los Angeles. The man behind a gourmet food-store revolution in the area, Darrell Corti, will MC for the evening. The dinner will cost $200 per person with wines included. Valentino’s wine cellar is considered one of the best in the world and offers 2,200 choices among 130,000 bottles.
A few weeks later, renowned Piemontese chef Walter Ferretto of Il Cascinalenuovo restaurant in Isola d’Asti, will cook a 10-course meal including white truffles. Ferretto will be joined by chefs Luciano Pellegrini, Angelo Auriana, Davide Giova and Alessandro Stroppa. The cost of the dinner starts at $175 per person. Among other promotions to celebrate 40 years in business are wine events and an evening with famous Italian butcher, Dario Cecchini.
Born in Modica, Sicily, Selvaggio immigrated to the USA when he was 18. After a few months of washing dishes in a cafeteria at New York University, he moved to Los Angeles to live with an uncle, who was a manager at the legendary Chasen’s. Selvaggio was given a job as a busboy, attending college during the day. Within five years, he advanced from busboy to manager. In 1972, when Selvaggio was 26, a friend suggested that they partner to open an Italian restaurant. Selvaggio sensed tremendous potential for quality Italian foods and wines in Los Angeles. Two years later, when his friend decided to leave Valentino and open his own restaurant, Selvaggio bought his partner’s share of the business.
Since then Valentino in Santa Monica has been declared the top restaurant in the USA by ‘Wine Spectator’ in 1995 and ‘New York Times’ restaurant critic Ruth Reichl, praised it as the best Italian restaurant in the USA. In 1996, Selvaggio was the recipient of the prestigious James Beard Foundation’s Outstanding Service Award. In 1997, Valentino rated top in ‘Wine Spectator’ magazine’s list of the USA’s 10 Best Italian Restaurants, it was also voted the USA’s Top Table by ‘Gourmet’ magazine readers.
The Valentino Restaurant Group is a multi-million dollar restaurant and consulting empire. Selvaggio also owns Valentino restaurants in Las Vegas and Houston. Since 1972, the group has expanded with Primi, Posto in Sherman Oaks, Caffé Giorgio in Las Vegas, Impresario in Downtown LA and Norcino in Santa Monica.