Sunday, May 28, 2006

Valentino’s (A Pizza Month Special Report)

C says:

Nothing beats Valentino’s for good old-fashioned Italian food. Quick background on the history of the place (as we know it): our first experience with chef Valentino Valtulina was when he was at Ristorante Roma, at Royal Ville. It renamed itself Casa Roma and the standard deteriorated somewhat. One day, A’s cousin L introduced us to Cantina at Greenleaf Road, and we discovered that Valentino had moved there. Not long after that, we heard that due to some shareholding disputes (Cantina was opened with a Singaporean partner, who allegedly stole Valentino’s recipes then promptly tried to get rid of him), Valentino opened his namesake restaurant last year, deep inside the residential area of Rifle Range Road.

Valentino’s is pretty much a family-run joint – his parents, brother and sister all help out in the restaurant, and his sister even makes all the desserts daily. I think this place has the best traditional Italian food in Singapore – completely unpretentious, just really good Italian food that you could imagine being served in a family-run restaurant in Italy.

Because it’s still pizza month (May is coming to an end, thank goodness…), we had to have a pizza when we came here on Saturday night. A decided on the Pizza Alberto, which has beef tenderloin and Tabasco sauce. For someone who claims to like “simple food for simple folk, yo”, I’m surprised that this pizza is A’s favourite one here. While the beef is very tender and the Tabasco sauce an interesting addition, there are other pizzas I’d rather have here, most notably the Pizza Bismark, which we’ve tried previously. The Bismark is a simple pizza with bacon and 2 eggs sunny side up, and the egg is set but still slightly soft in the center. If you’re a bacon and egg fan, you have to try the Bismark.

Another killer dish here is the Lobster Pasta. Two small lobsters are halved and served, still in their shells with heads and all, with linguine in a creamy tomato sauce that has an incredibly full flavour of lobster and lobster roe. It’s almost like condensed lobster bisque. This is one of the best pastas I’ve ever had, because it doesn’t try to add too many ingredients to complicate matters, and just relies on the strength of the lobster flavour. It can get a little gelak though, so I’d recommend 2 people sharing this and a pizza.

This place has specials every night, but we forgot to ask what the specials were tonight and just proceeded to order. While I have no regrets with the mains, we ordered a meat antipasto starter which was good, if a little boring. We overheard the waiter telling another table the starter specials, one of which was cheese wrapped with parma ham and fried. Bummer, we should’ve ordered that.

We shared a tiramisu for dessert – made by Valentino’s sister. This was really good, and A was in heaven because this tiramisu, which was low on alcohol and high on marscapone cheese, suited him perfectly.

The place was full by about 8.30, so if you’re thinking of coming on a weekend, I’d seriously recommend that you make a reservation if you don’t want to be disappointed. Oh, one more thing – there was a sign on the door saying they’re closed for their annual vacation from 5th to 26th June (or thereabouts). So do call ahead to find out if they’re open.

A says:

Best non-alcoholic Tiramisu I’ve had, EVER!. Food is always excellent. Used to have iffy service but now that Valentino has his whole family here and more staff (including parking valets), it’s all good.

They serve their pizzas on a cool wooden lazy susan so it’s easy to reach the pieces and it’s just plain fun to spin. I would have chosen this as the best pizza place until I developed a taste for cleaner, simpler pizzas. As it is though, this place is still great and like a terminator, “I’ll be back” for the tiramisu.

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