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Legendary Italian Restaurant Valentino to Close After 46 Years in Santa Monica

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The Santa Monica restaurant is ground zero for so much of today’s pasta scene

Farley Elliott is the Senior Editor at Eater LA and the author of Los Angeles Street Food: A History From Tamaleros to Taco Trucks. He covers restaurants in every form, from breaking news to the culture, people, and history that surrounds LA's dining landscape.

One of greater Los Angeles’s true dining stalwarts is heading for a subtle sunset, as Valentino in Santa Monica is set to close at the end of this year. The 46-year-old restaurant helped to usher in the modern dominance of true Italian food in Los Angeles, with owner Piero Selvaggio overseeing a kitchen that spanned decades and included some of the city’s biggest names in Italian cooking.

As first reported by the LA Times, Selvaggio plans to shutter the seminal Valentino on New Years Eve of this year. Until then it will largely be business as usual inside the classic Santa Monica restaurant, but it’s easy to imagine a series of going-away dinners and one-off events before the official last call. At its height, Valentino’s was one of the busiest restaurants in the entire county, and truly helped to usher in LA’s modern romance with true Italian cuisine and ingredients. That means fresh pastas, imported meats, and fine wine, rather than the Italian-American prevalence of red-checkered tablecloths and gigantic meatballs.

That’s not to say that Selvaggio himself is disappearing as well. Instead he’s found some new partnership opportunities in Ron Salisbury (El Cholo), and plans to open a new restaurant called Loui’s on the Waterfront at 2801 Pacific Coast Highway in Newport Beach this fall. That restaurant will be more of an Italian chophouse, but will still carry a fine selection of pastas.

Interestingly enough, Selvaggio isn’t even the first longstanding Italian name to decamp for Orange County, as Vic Casanova of Gusto recently decided to take up duties at the The Loft restaurant inside the tony Montage Laguna Beach hotel. Back up in LA, Selvaggio’s understudies like Steve Samson (Rossoblu, Sotto) and Angelo Auriana (Factory Kitchen, Officine Brera) will continue on the Valentino legacy.