The other day, when I shared what it felt like to interview restaurateur Piero Selvaggio of Valentino again 25 years after the first time in Los Angeles, I mentioned that the radio show featured me tasting “a whole bunch of items.” Thanks to my usual eloquence, many readers wondered, “OK, so what items, John?” Here are the dishes I took photos of, starting with the light-wonderful crudi pictured above, an Italian response to Japanese sashimi.
Executive chef Cunninghame West joined us for the radio taping, but happily not until after he’d fixed this super mild-tasting squid-ink pasta topped with lobster, catching the perfect balance between peasant food and special occasion. If you were a peasant with access to fresh Maine lobster, I think this would be the perfect food for you. The rest of us will have to settle for access to Valentino at the Hotel Derek.
I am, I’m told regularly, one of the few people on earth who doesn’t think salmon is God’s gift to Humankind in the form of a fish. Despite my own reservations, I’ll have to seriously reconsider after Selvaggio and West set me up with this luscious, moist piece of salmon riding high atop a rustic, lusty Roman-style puttanesca sauce and roasted potatoes. I can’t picture the hookers who give this sauce its name eating half so well.
As a lifelong carnivore, one thing I do think is God’s gift to Humankind is rack of lamb – and, working with his Italian paint set, West created a masterpiece. For one thing, it’s a visual delight, complete with bones pointing off in every direction. For another thing, it’s delicious, the grilled meat dancing perfectly with a sauce rich in orange. Eat your heart out, mint jelly!