Valentino’s, says its website, has been ‘delivering a taste of Italy since 1995.’
No mean feat when you consider the rapid comings and goings of restaurants in recent years.
Located in Lofthouse Gate, on the outskirts of Wakefield, and within striking distance of Leeds, it is a hugely popular place with families. Its cavernous interior is regularly filled to capacity so it’s a good idea to book at peak times - weekends during the day are particularly popular with multi-generational families packing the place out for all manner of celebrations.
Recently voted by the Wakefield Express newspaper as its Italian Restaurant of the Year, Valentino’s said when accepting the award they are big on authenticity and use ‘proper’ Italian ingredients wherever possible, delivered daily.
To beat the crowds we booked an early evening midweek slot although, given the hour, we could just as easily turned up unannounced.
There were a few tables occupied, mainly by couples and small groups who looked like they were on an after-work jaunt.
Offered a choice of tables we installed ourselves by the window and ordered drinks .
During the course of the meal I made the mistake of ordering two half-pints of Poretti instead of a pint which bumped up the price from £3.50 to £5. My companion had San Miguel (£3.50 a pint) - both beers are on draught which made for a nice change from the usual bottles and they were well kept and refreshing on what was a hot summer’s evening.
Staff are pleasant and welcoming but our waiter would have benefited from a bit more training. She hadn’t quite got the technique right of walking around while scanning the room and spotting customers requiring her attention.
To be fair to her though, this is no cosy little bistro, I didn’t count the chairs but you can see from the photograph that the restaurant takes up a lot of floor space.
The whole of the back wall is taken up with an imposing mural of St Peter’s in Rome and the floor is covered with beautiful parquet: I may be mis -remembering but I seem to recall that the building once housed a car showroom many years ago, although a friend swears it was actually a fireplace shop.
There’s an open kitchen, which is always a good sign, but we were seated too far away to see much of what was going on.
I’m always in something of a quandary when it comes to ordering Italian food. I like pasta and pizza but the cuisine is so varied I usually try to opt for something a little different.
Happily Valentino’s serve starter-size portions of pasta so I went for chicken and spinach tagliatelle (£6.95) and my companion gamberoni aglio - king prawns in a creamy garlic sauce (£9.95).
The tagliatelle was al-dente as it should be and the creamy parmesan sauce with a hint of spinach was rich and coated the pasta well.
My companion enjoyed his prawns, commenting on how juicy and infused with flavour they were but he would have liked a few more for his £9.95.
The menu notes that all chickens used in the restaurant come from a free range farm at Harome near Helmsley and the beef from Yorkshire Dales cows , so we decided to try some of each.
Our mains were pollo cacciatora (£10.95)for me and spaghetti bolognese (£7.95) with a side helping of garlic bread (£4.95) for him.
My chicken breast came with cherry tomatoes, olives and mushrooms and was beautifully cooked and had a really great taste. To say it melted in the mouth may be a well-worn cliche but that was exactly what it did.
Served with crunchy seasonal vegetables my companion looked on in envy as he surveyed his bolognese - despite him reckoning it was one of the nicest sauces he’d tasted in a while. We both thought £4.95 a bit expensive for the bread though.
After we’d been served, the waiters had to be prompted to come round with the oversized pepper and parmesan mills . I much prefer condiments to be on the table so I can help my self, but establishments that do this are in the minority in my experience.
Although pleasantly full there was still room for dessert. Valentino’s have a decent selection including tiramisu, creme brulee and the like.
I’m not a great fan of tiramisu so decided on another Italian classic pistachio cannoli. Although it looked lovely I wasn’t overly impressed with the sweet ricotta filling which was decidedly bland - so much so that I didn’t finish it, which is almost unheard off. I much preferred my companion’s cheesecake which was rich and creamy with biscuit both top and bottom.
The final bill including two rounds of drinks came to a respectable £62.65. In all a pleasant experience and one I’d be happy to repeat.
Address: 699 Leeds Rd, Lofthouse Gate, Wakefield WF3 3HF
Telephone: 01924 210310
Opening times: Noon-11pm daily