Valentino’s Eatery – “Authentic Italian Cuisine in the Southeast Valley”
In Anthem, just off Hunt Hwy and to the left of Safeway, is a fabulous Italian restaurant I discovered thanks to Jeffrey Kramer, Food Connoisseur and Reviewer from Kahuna Cafe – http://kahunacafe.blogspot.com
When I walked in I saw a beautifully decorated dining room with 2 and 4 top tables with classy glass place settings and white table clothes. About 9 of the 15 or so tables were full of people talking and laughing and they all looked like they were really enjoying their food. It’s a place where you can wear casual clothes or dress up, it all depends on how you feel. You’ll fit in either way.
There was a short wait because when you first walk in, if the greeter is seating folks, there is no way for them or the servers to see you right away because the wall into the dining room is jutted out a little and there is no clear view from the dining room to the door or vice versa. I took a quick step to the left and one of the staff saw me right away and came to seat me.
My server, Rebecca, arrived within a minute or so, and took my drink order. I asked for the sweetest white wine they had and a coke.
Jen Barker, one of the owners (Rob Barker, her husband, is the other owner and chef) brought me my wine and introduced herself (she was tending bar). Jen is very pleasant and was really interested in knowing what I thought after I told her that Jeffrey recommended I stop in.
Rebecca arrived with my coke and for an appetizer, I ordered the Muscles Valentino in the wine and garlic sauce. It arrived a little while later and the sauce had a saltiness from the coarse salt on the mussels that was perfectly matched with a little hint of brininess from the mussels. I squeezed the fresh lemon slice over all the mussels and that added another level of flavor to the dish. Half way through them, I noticed that 4 of the 16 mussels didn’t open. Rebecca took them back to the kitchen and Chef Rob quickly re-fired 4 fresh ones for me. When they arrived I choose not to use the lemon and found that I actually liked them better without it.
The homemade loaf of bread was a little hard on the outside (like a good French bread should be) yet soft and pillowy on the inside. It made the perfect dipping bread in the garlic sauce on the mussels.
Just as I finished the appetizer, Rebecca, my very attentive server, arrived with my salad. The salad was fresh and beautiful to look at. The bright and deep greens, dark red and orange were just gorgeous. And it had just the right combination of lettuce and spinach with plum tomatoes, carrots, red onion and a delicious house Italian dressing with just the right touch of tanginess.
Within a few minutes of finishing my salad my entrée was delivered with a smile. The special for the night, Cajun Broiled Fish on a bed of fettuccine with green peas, apple bacon and mushrooms. I’ve eaten some great Cajun fish in New Orleans and I have to tell you this was better than some of those. Nearly the best I’ve eaten. It really was mouthwatering.
The heat from the spicy Cajun seasoning was spot on. Not enough to burn your mouth, but just enough to let you know it’s there. And the crispy outside of the fish had a light crunch that I heard when I bit into the first bite. The fettuccine was aldente as were the mushrooms, just the way I like them, and the taste was truly savory and delicious. I added a little squeeze of lemon juice to the fish and “Bam”, as one of my favorite chefs says from time to time, it kicked the whole meal up a notch.
The prices are very reasonable so you won’t break the bank on a very upscale and fabulous meal. And if your server is as good as Rebecca was, I highly recommend you tip accordingly.
This is a dining experience I will treasure for a long time… as least until I return to this little gem in the desert. So, if you’re thinking about having a night out, in a nice setting and wonderful atmosphere, with phenomenal food, a friendly staff and owners that pay attention to their guests that won’t put you in the poor house… then take that short 12 minute drive south (past Bella Vista on Hunt Hwy) and I promise you… you will not be disappointed.