As an intermezzo between commentaries on the JBF events, ELV thought we’d offer up some tasty snaps of Luciano Pellegrini’s menu from last Friday night’s special dinner. Since we didn’t make it to Valentino in the Venetian that night (as we were enjoying the immensely flavorful and creative stylings of Carlos Buscaglia and Fabio Trabocchi at Fiamma)…one must ask: How could ELV be in two places at once?
Answer: Go for lunch with Alan (The Hitman) Richman, find Chef Pellegrini there, and ask him to give us a sample. He apologized for the absence of white truffles (they hadn’t arrived yet), and substituted the less intense-and-sometimes-unnecessary summer truffles in each of the dishes. Richman agreed the crabcake didn’t need truffles of any kind, and that the fork-tender buffalo tenderloin didn’t benefit from the window-dressing either. ELV has often found buffalo too lean and sinewy for his tastes, but this steak trumped any filet mignon we’ve ever had. And we both swooned over the tubular, mascarpone-stuffed bucatini with gorgonzola sauce, that was so good, ELV was tempted to forget about dinner entirely and beg Pellegrini for a big bowl with extra candied walnuts.
“The Hitman” spent a good deal of time probing the wine list for outrageousness or weakness, but never landed a punch. After a few rounds, he pronounced it a gem, full of interesting labels and bargains. To old restaurant warriors, that means bunches of of bottles that offer bang for the buck (and some bottle age) for less than a Big Ben.
Finding those can be a problem for mere mortals without the time to work your their way through the dictionary-thick tome. That’s where super-somm Bob Kelly and GM Carlo Cannuscio come in. Like everyone in every Piero Selvaggio operation, they’re proud of their wines and happy to educate and sell you on a bottle in any price range.
Valentino in Santa Monica has been known as one of the best Italian restaurants in the country for over thirty years. Our Valentino has only been here for nine, but remains at the top of our pasta list, and is probably the best under-the-radar place in town. What Pelligrini and his crew do with noodles, game, meat and small birds is nothing short of amazing. We’ve never been as keen on the seafood here, but then again, with the exception of RM and Bartolotta (and Restaurant Charlie and the oysters at Bouchon), ELV tends to avoid ordering seafood 250 miles from the nearest body of salt water. Even if you don’t have time for a full meal, stop by the wine bar, tuck into a plate of hickory-smoked quails with a fig-vincotto dressing, sip a nice Zenato Ripassa Valipocella, and you’ll see why we’re so crazy about everything else about this place.
In the Venetian Hotel and Casino
3355 Las Vegas Blvd. South
Las Vegas, NV 89109