It’s hard to find a classic restaurant in hip, ever-changing Los Angeles and Santa Monica. Valentino exudes old-world charm and authenticity, despite being located in the center of these cities of reinvention. It’s one of the best restaurants in Santa Monica, and the only one without sparking curb appeal to match the upscale interior. In fact, I’d say it’s hidden gem – except that its popularity and longevity (opened 1972, a millennium for restaurants) belie this statement.
Classic, high-end Italian fare is the name of the game at Valentino, and while some hipsters might say that
the decor needs updating, I find it appealing. The decor sets the mood for a long, unrushed traditional Italian meal. The salad with rucola, apples and walnuts alone is worth the trip to Pico Boulevard, but the seasonal lobster appetizer is also perfectly done and fantastic. The aged prosciutto with burrata is as good as I’ve had in Florence, Italy. The pasta is all made that day, on site; it makes a difference. Corn ravioli may sound like carb overload, but this is among the lightest pasta dishes I can recall. I highly recommend it. For fish lovers, both the salmon and the branzino are melt-in-your-mouth delicious. Valentino has braised lamb shanks that are something of a favorite among those who are financially lucky enough to come here for repeat visits. According to my waiter, the osso bucco also has made something of a name for itself: I tried neither the lamb nor the osso bucco, hence can’t personally judge them.
The waiters are perfectly professional and the sommelier delights in perfectly pairing wines with the appetizers and entrees here – trust him, he knows what he’s doing. The wine cellar is extensive, and includes some very expensive, rare Italian vintages (you can order a relatively cheaper bottle of course, but it’s nice to consider it). Now, this is a high-end restaurant, with prices to match. Ready for a splurge? Valentino is the perfect place to celebrate a special occasion.
Despite all these culinary delights, try to save room for desert. The apple ravioli (like an apple crisp) isn’t TOO decadent, is it? If so, the cinnamon ice cream is at once creamy and light, making a perfect end to one of the best Italian meals you’ll have in Santa Monica, California.
3115 Pico Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA