Drinks & Dinner at famed Italian eatery, Valentino Cucina, in Fort Lauderdale; featuring the cuisine of Chef & Owner, Giovanni Rocchio.
“Valentino’s Cucina” isn’t just chic and sophisticated; the food is simply ART (and lucky for me, it’s the edible kind.) The restaurant is a mix of all the things I love: a cosmopolitan atmosphere, creative cocktails and killer homemade Italian cuisine. I was blown away by my experience there last Friday night.
I arrived after a long work week, which included highlighting the “Sobe Wine & Food Festival” — so I was definitely in need of a break from gargantuan white tents, long lines and finger foods. Just as I sat down…
A glass of bubbly made its way into my hands and Chef Giovanni Rocchio, who’s kind, conversational and a bit of a 70’s movie buff, offered up the most delicious amuse-bouche of lobster ravioli (with hints of corn and leeks). It was nothing short of spectacular.
(Although I would quickly learn when dining at Valentino, “spectacular” is pretty much the norm.)
Before I tried more of Giovanni’s ambitious cuisine (and frankly, some of the best I’ve had in South Florida,) I tasted three easy-on-the-eyes beverages…
“The Gia” (made with citrus vodka, limoncello and prosecco) tasted fresh and bubbly; the “Pink Blazer” (made with tequila, hibiscus syrup and passion fruit puree,) reminded me of red peppers on ice and “Zero Gravity” — which was my favorite of the night — was an interesting mix of bourbon, lemon juice, honey syrup, Earl Grey tea, muddled strawberry & blueberries, fresh salt and ground black pepper. It would sure be easy to lose count when sipping on one of these frothy concoctions. I’m guessing that’s why it’s called “Zero Gravity.”
Each cocktail was fashion-forward and interesting, a nice change of pace in what sometimes feels like an overly-crowded world of sweet Cosmos & Lychee Martinis.
My first appetizer was the creamy “Burrata” with cherry tomatoes, black olives, marinated anchovies, arugula and pine nuts. I’m not big on beets, but wow — the “Beet Agnolotti” w/ aged goat cheese and sesame brittle was divine and the “Foie Gras with Ginger Mascarpone” (and strawberries) was mind-blowing. No doubt, Chef Giovanni is a master at pairing seemingly unrelated flavors.
Before my main course of “Branzino” (served with heirloom beans, artichokes and chili peppers,) I sipped on Valentino’s take on a “Singapore Sling” (imagine drinking an extra juicy black cherry.)
The chef also sent a surprise of “Prawn Langostine Ravioli” (it’s impossible to pick my favorite dish of the evening, but this one is pretty close.)
After a palette-cleansing “Raspberry Sorbet & Sake Yogurt” and a sip or three of a Dirty Martini (don’t judge me; it was Friday night,) three decadent desserts arrived…
“Chocolate Cheesecake,” “Olive Oil Pistachio Mousse Cake,” and “Chocolate Vanilla Truffles”. I’m a sucker for a good cheesecake, add some chocolate and well, it’s the perfect after-dinner treat.
All the desserts were artistically plated and tasted better than they looked, if that’s even remotely possible.
Valentino’s is not only a first class, fine dining experience, its people — who are warm, caring and committed to excellence — are the real secret ingredients that make the restaurant a huge success and that’s why it’s one of my favorite things. Cheers!
620 S. Federal Highway
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301
(valet on property)
Friday & Saturday: 6pm-12am
Closed on Sunday
Bar opens at 5pm