A million years ago, in the mid-1980s, I traveled to Los Angeles as the food editor of United Press International – with two basic assignments. One was to interview Julia Child at her home on the ocean outside Santa Barbara for a huge UPI profile cleverly called Lifesize. Nice work if you can get it. The other was to interview a guy in hip West LA who had a new restaurant “concept” (I was just getting familiar with the word) combining the notion of Spanish tapas or “small plates” with Italian food. The place was called Primi, short for “primi piatti,” which in Italy might be an appetizer and certainly, if you ask me, must include some pasta.
Little did I know that the guy I interviewed at Primi, Piero Selvaggio, would end up expanding his other restaurant brand, Valentino, from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, and then to the Hotel Derek in Houston. Even littler did I know that I’d be in Houston to catch up with him again.
So that’s what Piero and I did yesterday in Valentino, a concept (I’m quite familiar with the word now) that takes in a delightful restaurant of that name plus a casual drinkery-eatery called VinBar. We enjoyed tasting a whole bunch of items prepared by executive chef Cunninghame West, who must be more Italian than his name sounds, and then we settled into recording a radio show. For me, though, the big story was the one that had to take a backseat to owner and chef talking about their restaurant. And that’s the idea that not everybody you knew way-back-when, especially those who are smart and charming and successful, has to remain way-back-when forever.