Sunday, September 4, 2011

Go to the Villa Valenti, you fools

Last night we went to dinner at our favorite restaurant, the Villa Valenti, and we were the only two people in the place at 9.15PM, which was pretty great because of the real 1-to-1 service. (For the record, it was very busy earlier in the night, a 30 minute wait at the bar.) It was also weird having nobody else in a restaurant at that time on a Saturday night, while Lombardi’s parking lot, a mile down the road, looked like the outside of Giants’ Stadium ten minutes before kickoff (I mean Met Life Stadium). And it was a little sad, because the Villa Valenti is the best restaurant in the world, and I should know because I’m the greatest dishwasher the place ever had. You’re probably saying, “Brian, how can you say the Villa is the best restaurant in the world. Have you been to every restaurant in the world, even Europe?” Yes. Yes I have.

Here’s what I propose.

The economy is pretty rough, and my male-modeling career for Hollister is beginning to go dry, (How many shopping bags can your shirtless likeness appear on?) so I am submitting my letter of interest right here and now for the unadvertised opening as the Villa Valenti’s Marketing Director, working for Ralph Valenti and family. Prior experience? Greatest dishwasher ever. Need I say more?

My campaign would be a simple one. I’d tell Ralph to stop playing the game of dinner specials, blanket emails, and presentation over substance. I would tell Ralph to stop all the advertising and 4 for $20.00 dinner nights. Forget it. Under my direction, he would go in the newspapers, on the radio waves, and say, “You want specials, I don’t do specials. Here’s what I do. I SELL THE BEST FOOD IN THE WORLD, and I’m right down the road.” The second commercial would go like this. Cue Ralph Valenti saying, “Go to your so-called favorite restaurant and get your so-called favorite dinner. Then come to the Villa, get the same exact thing and I promise: YOU’LL NEVER GO BACK TO YOUR ‘FAVORITE’ RESTAURANT.’ Why? Because I SELL THE BEST FOOD IN THE WORLD!”

I’ve been everywhere in the Region. Sam’s, Lombardo’s, all those CafĂ© places in Albany, Verdile’s, the Brown Derby, D’Raymond’s, Ralph’s on Central, TJ’s, that place by Lark Street with the curbside seating, the Circus Cafe. NOBODY can touch the Villa. NOBODY. The place should have 1,000 people every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night. The Villa bread and salad bar? Don't get me started. I could eat the Villa 8 days a week. If I was on Death Row, for last meal, I would send the Jailer Man and Sailor Sam to the Villa Valenti for their chicken parm, eat it, and die a happy man. Go to the Villa Valenti you fools.

You need a coupon offer, here it is: It's the best dinner you'll ever have. How much is it? I don't know: The fairest price on the planet. Less than its competition, I'm sure. And don't give me that crap, Averill Parkers, about how the Villa used to be good but now it's not. The Villa was the best in '81, '91, '01 and still in '11.

When I was 17, I washed dishes in the kitchen at the Villa, and it was the best job I ever had. I washed five feet from the restaurant’s matriarch, Emma Valenti, who would show up for work every day, except Tuesday, sit behind a pushcart and cut tomatoes, shred cheese, slice onions so thin they were invisible. From 2PM till 10PM she would pick apart every single thing I did wrong as I slaved over that dishwasher in a kitchen that would hit 100 degrees, and I loved every, single second of it. Then she rewarded you. Free food, bread, homemade dessert, it was great. Every 17 year old needs an Emma Valenti in their life. Maybe our younger generations wouldn’t feel so entitled, run so fast from hard work if they had an Emma Valenti telling them where the rubber hits the road. I betcha.

My greatest memory of Ralph Valenti is years later as I waited at the bar for a takeout order. He told me that night if he could work any other career it would be as a teacher. I won’t tell you how that influenced me, Hollister career aside. They are a great family, but more importantly they are the architects and engineers of the greatest restaurant menu in the business. If you have never eaten at the Villa, you have never eaten Italian-American food.

Every year on my birthday, the whole family goes to the Villa, of course. Right now I am staring at the receipt from the night of my 29th birthday. My father had such a great time that night, we all did, and he paid the entire $279.00 bill, a bargain for the seven of us, I promise you. I keep that receipt because it’s the last time we ever went out to family dinner with him, as he was gone 3 months later. Thank you, Villa, for that great final memory.

Go to the Villa Valenti, you fools.


Villa Website:

Brian Huba


  1. Very strange comment. Know too much about him. Sounds like an ex employee(disgruntled who could not make it). Castle on lake is a modular.
    Ralph has been managing (even when Emma was there) for about 25 years.
    The food if anything has gotten better...many say so. This ex employee will be ex employee everywhere.

  2. Castle is a figure of speech and is descriptive of a certain lifestyle. Thousands of people know the Valenti's and their business very well, and not all are adoring fans like you. You obviously have a limited and zealous perspective. They are lucky to have you, an expert about people and restaurants, as a spokesperson!

  3. Why is everybody so concerned about where and how the Villa management lives? This is written by someone who likes the Villa product and has fond memories of dealing with the family, as an employee and customer. Who cares who lives in a castle, figuratively or literally?

  4. Brian, you are very privileged to be the only person allowed be critical of Ralph's management style on this blogspot. Perhaps there should be another blog out there about what happens when a restaurant owner funnels money into their own pockets instead of making for a better workplace with better employees and better food. Take a drive by that dump that he owns on Pawling ave with the Villa Valenti name on it and tell me what you see aside from the mass of sheeple huddled inside. How can anyone be proud of the way that place looks outside? This is in a neighborhood where thousands drive by every day and have to see that mess. If the businesses were run properly he'd be a retired millionaire by now, the establishments would be improved, and you'd be his proud general manager.

  5. The Ralph we know is generous to a fault! He is far from rich. Strange at it seems he would never except being rich. Known him for years and his character is like his late father, Sammy, too generous...even when he is in need. His humor is sharp and had us in stitches more times that I can remember
    His work ethic is unrivaled. When you work for him you know you are being taught. He is a great teacher. His knowledge of food and ingredients is immense. We call him a food scientist. He knows the chemistry of things and where things are grown even!

    The 'Pub' is managed by Tess and Jarid Valenti who do a great job. Never seen Ralph work there.
    The food there is superb , though its a pub, but a damn nice one. I love the place and its looks just fine!
    As for the restaurant..everyone knows its the greatest..except those who may have an axe to grind. However, I can safely say if you have an axe against this family you are a misguided soul to the extreme.

  6. I read your blog about Villa Valenti's Pub. It is exactly that: a "Pub". I have beeen to Valenti's Pub many, many times and the food and service is exceptional. As far as improvements to the Pub, in the past two years I have seen many improvements on the outside and inside and I have known Mr. Valenti for a long time and he certainly does not cyphen money into his own pockets. Shame on you for saying such a thing. He gives donations to more orgaizations than I can say throughout the Tri-City area. A more giving person you cannot find. So I disagree with your blog in its entirety.
    From: A Concerned Waitress

  7. Concerned waitress. This blog is not about the Pub it's about the Villa Valenti Restaurant.