My Big Fat ITALIAN LUNCH

Very few restaurants impress with their simplicity and authenticity, Ristorante Da Valentino is one of them.

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Very few restaurants impress with their simplicity and authenticity, Ristorante Da Valentino is one of them.

IN 2002, my mom and I went on a trip to Italy. Mom’s main reason was to attend a canonization, my motivation was the food. I had turned 30 a few months before and wanted to celebrate my personal milestone with a trip. As fate would have it, the trip to Italy was destined. It was my first trip to Europe and it opened my eyes to a lot of things. It was the first time for me to eat zucchini flowers, to eat freshly made tortellini, to eat pasta which was made just minutes ago, to taste parmigiano reggiano from the source. We walked into trattorias and osterias with no menus, we pointed and ate. It was an eye opening and life changing experience.

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As I walked into Ristorante da Valentino that morning, I had not expected to meet Chef Valentino Valtulina sitting alone in the middle of the dining room. He was quietly reading a message on his phone. I introduce myself and he smiled. Immediately, I knew I was going to like him. We start to talk and we talk about, what else? Food. I recounted my story about my first trip to Italy and his eyes light up. “I think in the short time that we were chatting, I already know what type of food you like. I will cook for you!” Chef Valentino exclaimed. Now Chef Marco, Valentino’s cousin, who mans the kitchen here in Jakarta was already preparing a few dishes for me. Valentino rushes into the kitchen and asks Marco to move over, the maestro wanted to cook some dishes himself! Oh such a privilege.

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The original Ristorante Da Valentino was opened by Chef Valentino and his wife Patricia in Singapore in 2005 in a residential area along Rifle Range Road. It was a 45-seater family-managed Italian restaurant that was furbished very much like an Italian home with a relaxing and cozy ambience as well as serving Italian cuisine with his mother and sister, Perla, working in the kitchen and his brother-in-law, Alberto, managing the dining area. The Restaurant relocated to its current location, The Grandstand, in July 2012. It is now a 134-seater restaurant with 3 private rooms, 2 semi-private rooms, 5 cozy ‘mini caves’ that can seat up to 4 people and an al fresco area.

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Jakarta’s Ristorante Da Valentino opened in January 2015 to rave reviews and packed crowds. The Jakarta restaurant maintains its Italian ambience and continues the legacy began by Chef Valentino to take pride in serving classic Italian food with chef’s touch and creativity. The restaurant also serves seasonal dishes just like restaurants in Italy. The restaurant has four private rooms and can sit up to 100 people.

As I watched Chef Valentino I couldn’t help but admire the passion he had for his cooking. Later on he told me that he was young man of 22 when was asked if he wanted to move to Singapore to open an Italian restaurant. He said, ‘why not.’ “I had a teacher who always told me that we must take every opportunity to travel and to see the world. You learn a lot from traveling, the culture, mentality and food of a different people. And so I accepted,” Chef Valentino shares. He said to himself, he could stay for the two-year contract and always go back to Italy. “But when I arrived, I felt very comfortable in Singapore. It is a very orderly country, very good system, very organized,” he reminisces his first years in the city-state. He continued to work for the company for eight years, then got the opportunity to work for himself. “I decided to open my own restaurant, and that was when I decided to ask my family to come over.” They opened in 2005 and Chef Valentino says that it was a struggle to climb up to where they are now, but it was a challenge he was ready to accept and has enjoyed doing. “We make simple, homemade food. This is really what I like, I don’t really like the nice, decorated plates, its not my style. An oso buco is an oso buco, a risotto, is a risotto. And that is what I focus on. And fortunately, the clients like the food,” Chef Valentino states firmly of his food. Chef Valentino says that in Singapore, Italian food was mainly projected as fancy hotel food. He maintains that he will stick to his rustic style of cooking, which many of guests say can only be eaten back in Italy.

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I waited patiently for Chef Valentino to finish cooking. First up was his signature Squid Ink Fettuccine with Crabmeat in Creamy Tomato Sauce. It was extremely flavorful, the creamy tomato sauce coated the pasta well, with the ever-present crab taste. Next was not on the menu but Chef Valentino made for me, because he knew I liked very simple pastas, a Penne All’Amatriciana. I am not usually fond of penne, but the pancetta and strong tomato flavor permeated the pasta so well that I almost ate half the bowl. He also sent out a porcini risotto, lamb chops in rosemary, and a succulent pork chop. But Chef Valentino reserved the best for last. He brought out a wooden box, the way he clutched it, one may have thought it was a box of jewels. Once he opened it I gave a gasp, inside were six big white Alba truffles. And to prove his love of the simple, out came a plate of lightly dressed fettuccine with a sunny side up egg on top. Then Chef Valentino comes and shaves an obscene amount of truffle on top, and presents me the plate. The heady aroma of the truffle is mesmerizing, and the simplicity of the dish is just overwhelming. I am in heaven.

As I write this, my mouth waters at the thought of all those dishes which Chef Valentino had me taste. I can’t wait to go back. Until when is truffle season again?

RISTORANTE DA VALENTINO
MD PLACE – 11th Floor
Jalan Setiabudi Selatan No.7 Jakarta
T: +62 21 2905 7888
Twitter & IG: @valentino_jkt
www.valentino-id.com


Written by Jed Doble Photographs by Dennie Ramon November 7, 2016.

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