You'll want to order the agnolotti carbonara at Valentino Cucina Italiana, where chef-owner Giovanni Rocchio is drawing on old-school Italian cooking methods with the launch of an all-new menu — the restaurant's first reboot in seven years.
The dish, featuring handmade pasta made by Rocchio himself, is among the chef's favorites. It's just one small part of his daily four-hour, pasta-making routine. Using up to four different flours, the chef combines his ingredients to create the perfect consistency — elastic but with a bit of a bite — before twisting and shaping them each by hand.
From there, a mouthwatering combination of organic egg yolks, pecorino cheese, and black pepper are whisked together in a hot mix blender, cooking to a custard-like consistency to create light pillows of carbonara goodness, plated simply with sauce and a garnish of crispy pancetta.
The agnolotti carbonara is one of nine new entrées and four side dishes that make up the restaurant's latest menu roll-out. Signature menu items come as a response to increased demand for Italian classics, Rocchio says, and feature customer favorites, including this dish from his childhood.
"In Rome, I went to an amazing restaurant called La Pergola," Rocchio says. "They serve a carbonara dish that is made a little untraditional, but it's incredible. This dish really inspired me ... it proves that
Fort Lauderdale's Valentino Cucina Italiana opened in 2006 — Rocchio's father, Tony, opened the original Valentino nearby in 1974 — and moved to its current location at 620 S. Federal Hwy. in 2012. Keeping his father’s tradition alive, the chef creates innovative Italian cuisine using quality ingredients, many imported from the motherland.
Growing up, Rocchio learned basic culinary skills, later training, and working at restaurants in New York City and Italy. Reopening Valentino in its current location represented the chef's desire to introduce innovative, high-end Italian cuisine — before South Florida's current culinary scene exploded.
"I wanted to see if South Florida would accept my concept," he says.
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On New Year's Eve, Rocchio inaugurated a new menu, the first in seven years. The goal: to offer more approachable, classic Italian fare.
Now you can find dishes such as veal Milanese served with radicchio, endive, and frisée, plus a selection of new
"We have always offered certain dishes as specials on select nights," Rocchio says. "The menu change was partially prompted by this demand, but I also wanted to offer a different variety.of dishes that may be more approachable to first-time classic Italian diners."
Valentino Cucina Italiana. 620 S. Federal Hwy., Fort Lauderdale; 954-523-5767; valentinocucinaitaliana.com.