Tuesday, January 15, 2013



Start the evening with 8 close friends entering a stretch limousine.
Take them to Valentino's in Santa Monica.  Have Piero Selvaggio greet and escort them to the private wine room where a table for 8 is set.   Add 7 specially prepared and elegant food courses, pairing each with a unique wine chosen by Piero.  Assign Sean to oversee the evening and explain the food and wine that accompanies each course.  Be generous all evening with lots of laughter.  What do you get?  A most memorable, unique dining experience with flowing wine, surrounded by one of the greatest wine collections in the country, if not the world.  A "magical mystery tour" of food and wine from one of the premier Italian restaurants in the country is going to take us away.


Following our arrival, and gracious greeting by Piero, we are escorted through the kitchen, up the staircase, to the private wine room, where a an elegant table is set for 8.

                                                    Surrounded by over $1,000,000 of wine

                                                       The mood is being set for the evening

Sean, our affable Maitre d' for the evening, hands us each a glass of Brut Zardetto Cuvee.  An elegant, soft sparkling wine, with a nose and flavors of  peach, pear, apricot.  The bubbly sets the mood for what is to follow.   As we take our seats we are served a trio of appetizers:  Eggplant with ricotta, rolled salmon with marscapone and a fried risotto.

                                                         And now, the food journey begins

Savoring the food, talking, laughing, sipping, relaxing.....unaware that the plates have been cleared, a new wine is poured, 

The 2008 Villa Ruzziz Pinot Bianco is light, floral and fruity.  Aromas tease the senses and pallet, and is exquisitely complimentary with the second course, a lump crab salad with heirloom tomatoes and micro greens.

                                            A picture is worth 1000 words-a taste even more

We are all definitely climbing the stairway to heaven, as a glass of 2008 Valle Dell 'Acate Bidis is poured, to the accompaniment of a warm mushroom tortino with black winter truffles.  Red and fruity, this wine accentuates the flavors of the mushrooms and truffles.....as we continue to be hypnotized by the food, wine and company.

                                                                    indescribable tastes

We are an hour into the gourmet experience, and everyone is happy, satisfied and relaxing, as the pasta course is served:  This is a spaghetti (home made of course) with an incredible sauce I wouldn't try to describe, with mushrooms and beef.  The wine that so perfectly brings out the flavors is a 2009 Blina Barbers d'asti.  Well balanced, and fruity, it is a perfect match with the dish.  Of course by now, we all think everything is a perfect match!

                                                     Spaghetti like mama never made

MORE food?  More wine?  But of course!  The main courses are about to be served!
A small veal fillet, wrapped in bacon, served over risotto that is blended with red wine and goat cheese.
How to best describe?  YUMMM!  And the 2008 La Massa Toscana, a Sangiovese...is yet another perfect fit.  Bold yet elegant, with dark fruit and minerality....that brings out the flavors of the wine and the food, and a lingering finish blending all the flavors together.

                                                              The risotto was to die for

With the evening approaching it's last chapter, we are served the final, well almost final, course:  Osso Buco on polenta. And to pair with this course, Piero has chosen a 2007  Dominico Clerico Arte, a Nebiolo that is deep ruby red.  Well structured, with layers of dark berries and minerals and a hint of spice.  Savoring the last bites, sipping the last drops from the glass.  All that remains now is dessert.

                                           Apologies by the photographer!  So wrapped up in the food,
                                                                   only took a mental picture

The 2009 Sol Solis Moscato d'Asti, a wonderful floral bouquet whose honey dominant flavor dances on your tongue....and brings out the flavors of the dessert assortment of a mini tiramisu, warm dark chocolate cake with a liquid fudge filling, and a small scoop of berry sorbet.  All masterfully tied together, so that no one flavor fights or dominates another.

                                       Thankfully, we did NOT have to go through the Wine book
                                                              to choose the wines ourselves!

Sitting back, totally sated, the magical evening almost at an end, we have one more treat in store for us.  Not to eat or drink or even touch, but to see:  One of the world's rarest bottles of wine that resides in Piero's Cellar:

One of Four bottles known to exist in the world! An 1891 Biondi Santi Brunello di Montalcino!  Re-corked and "topped off" several years ago, this 120 year old bottle is still vibrant and fills a proud spot in Piero's wine cellar.  What an honor to be able to see a liquid work of art like this.

                                      From when it was tasted, tested, re-corked several years ago,
                                                that is the original 1891 cork attached to the bottle
                                                      and yes, it IS on the wine list for purchase

Grudgingly, the evening must come to a close.  Walking back from the wine room, through the almost empty restaurant (the hour is now quite late), we bid "arriverderci" to Piero, Sean, and Paul (the sommelier).  No thanks is adequate for the incredible experience we just had.  Something so special and unique that words just do not do justice.

And of course, a most special "thank you" to Paul for arranging the evening.  If it were not for his 25 year association and friendship with Piero, we would never have the opportunity of such a special and one of a kind experience.