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Friday, August 1, 2014

Valentino's Eatery - Anthem at Merrill Ranch - Florence AZ

 La famiglia & amici insieme per un buon pasto Italiano.  Bringing family & friends together over a good Italian meal.

Most people have a love affair with Italian cooking. Why? Perhaps because of the love that goes into making it. From one generation to another, from one place to another the Italians have been perfecting the food of love forever. Thank goodness for that. 

Owner and Chef Rob Barker and wife, Jennifer Valentino Barker, is where the Valentino name comes from. Jennifer’s great grandfather Pasquale Valentino was born on August 13, 1885 in Molise, Italy. From there starts the tree of family loving to come together over a good meal and friends.

Valentino's is our modern day family spot where the highest quality of food and drink is created through the most efficient combination of traditional Italian styles and modern-creative techniques. To see what Valentino's was all about, my wife and home chef Diane made a visit for lunch last week. I've been wanting to try this place since hearing all the positive comments from the community and we sure need some good eateries out here.

We decided to come early thinking we'd be able to spend some time with Rob and talk about their concept and see what he recommends we try but he was busy prepping in the kitchen. We decided to just go at it alone and pick different things from the menu. We always seem to choose more things than we can really eat but how else are you going to sample different foods and tastes. So, we started with a couple of appetizers that for many people could be their whole meal.

Mussels Valentino. The small order was generous enough for the both of us. They were simmered in a choice of different sauces like lemon butter, white wine and garlic. We chose the roasted garlic and tomato cream sauce because it was unique. Mussels were very tender with pieces of parsley, tomato, onions in a rich sauce. Fortunately we asked for some french bread which came on a plank with butter and a tomato oil. More like a tomato jam with pieces of tomato and red pepper flakes for spice. Yummy. Between dipping the bread in the mussel sauce and tomato oil, we were happy campers.

We ordered their Valentinos Special Pizza to see how that was. Really good pizza in AZ is very spotty in my opinion and coming from Chicago I have high expectations. It was topped with fresh mozzarella of course, roasted garlic, sauteed spinach finished with pecorino cheese and oregano. It had a good crust with a pronounced garlic flavor all over.

The salad we ordered was the Chicken and Cranberry. Generous portion for the small one with fresh mixed greens, dried cranberries, marinated grilled chicken with red onion tossed in a house raspberry vinaigrette dressing. Very yummy. We loved the tartness of the dressing offset with the sweetness of the cranberries.

Of course we're full by now but we are troopers. Next.

Eggplant Parmigiana Panini. Look at the size of this sandwich. Egg battered dipped baby eggplant coated and topped with their homemade marinara sauce baked on a demi loaf with mozzarella cheese. I asked for it on garlic bread and it was killer. Crispy but tender eggplant ... thick slices. The marinara sauce is great. Served with a side of pasta salad. Leftovers of that and some pizza went home to live another day.

Even without dessert I, we are anxious to try the dinner menu that has many more specialties. Give Valentino's a try. It's a classy, cozy place that the community needs.


3385 N Hunt Highway Suite 121. Florence, Arizona 85132

Hours of Operation:

TUESDAY - THURSDAY:  Lunch 11:30am - 2:30pm,    Dinner 5:00pm - 8:00pm
FRIDAY & SATURDAY:    Lunch 11:30am - 2:30pm,    Dinner 5:00pm - 9:00pm

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