This article first appeared in the February 2015 edition of the Wakefield magazine TopicUK. Please check the restaurant’s website for updated details of menus, prices, opening hours, etc.
It was rather cold when my partner and I called into Valetino’s for lunch one Friday in the middle of January – in fact, so cold that there snow on the ground! So it was lovely to step inside and be met with a warm welcome from manager Sigita Pikturnaite. We’d only been to the restaurant once before, and that was on an evening when we had eaten a very good meal, so we were looking forward to seeing how it all came together at lunchtime.
For those of you who have not yet tried Valentino’s, the first surprise is just how deceptively large it is inside! The eye is immediately drawn to the large mural of the unmistakable Florentine skyline and its magnificent duomo. This mural completely covers the wall at the far end of the room and it was next to this that Sigita had reserved a table for my dining companion and me. Despite the cold weather, a number of people had ventured out to enjoy the lunchtime experience and it was nice to see this local restaurant being well supported.
Many of you will probably be familiar with this well-established restaurant, either because you’ve already eaten there or because you’ve passed it as you travel along the A61 Leeds Road between Outwood and Lofthouse. Opened some sixteen years ago by owners Afy Butt and Shahid Tarer, who wanted to provide locally-sourced food at affordable prices, the restaurant offers a comfortable environment in which to enjoy beautifully prepared food. The interior décor and furnishings certainly capture the look and feel of a typical Italian-style restaurant. To the left as you enter, there’s a well-stocked bar and seating area where people can relax and order a drink while they are waiting for their table at busy periods, and then, to the right is a spacious dining area with tables configurable for intimate dining à deux or for family and party groups.
Lunchtime opening is a relatively new facility in Valentino’s history, having been introduced only a couple of years ago. It is open Tuesday to Friday lunchtimes from 12 noon until 3 pm (last orders at 2.45 pm) and then re-opens at 5 pm until 10.00 pm for the evening service. At weekends, Valentino’s is open all afternoon from noon onwards ‘until late’. On Mondays, the restaurant is closed all day except for bank holidays when it is open as for weekends.
There are two main menus – a full à la carte menu which is available any time and a shorter lunchtime menu made up of lighter meals. Dishes on the lunchtime menu are very reasonably priced with starters costing around £3 to £4 and main courses from £4.95 to just over £8 with a selection of vegetables and salads available as side orders. Prices on the à la carte menu are a little higher, but with more generous portion size, but it’s still possible to have a three-course à la carte meal for around £20. You can, of course, choose courses from both menus if you wish. A children’s menu is also available. As you would expect, there is an extensive selection of wines and beers to choose from with bottles of wine starting at £13.95.
Not forgetting that we were there to sample the food, my partner and I agreed to try out both menus between us – my partner testing the lunch menu while I focused on the à la carte. I began with Warm Goats Cheese. This consisted of a flat cap mushroom topped with goats’ cheese and served with cherry tomatoes and basil dressing, one of my favourite dishes, and it was very good. My partner went for the simpler but no less appetising Insalata Caprese, a traditional dish of mozzarella cheese, sliced tomatoes and basil. To follow this, I plumped for the Porcini Ravioli while my partner had the Spinach and Ricotta Cheese Ravioli. Yes, you’ll notice we both had ravioli, but the dishes were very different as you might expect – my ravioli, from the à la carte menu was priced at £10.95, while my partner’s, ordered from the lunchtime menu, was just £5.65. There was no difference in quality but there was a difference in portion size and ingredients. However, we both professed ourselves very satisfied with our choices.
Actually, I had a wobbly moment just before my plate arrived! Making notes for this review, I spotted that, as well as a small ‘V’, there was also a small ‘H’ against my Porcini Ravioli on the menu. This apparently indicated that the dish would be hot and spicy – and I’m not keen on either hot or spicy! I went back and read the menu again and realised I should have paid more attention – the full description showed that I had just ordered “Pasta filled with porcini mushrooms with a creama truffle sauce – and chilli flakes”. In the end, I decided to stick with what I’d asked for and I’m pleased I did. Yes, I could taste the chilli, but it wasn’t so hot to be appreciable. I suppose that, had I wanted something truly hot and spicy, I could have been a tad disappointed so it might be worth discussing just how hot – or not – you want your pasta when you place your order.
To conclude our meal, we were tempted by the dessert menu (there’s one dessert menu, whichever menu you are eating your main courses from) with me choosing the Homemade Tiramisu and my partner the Crème Brûlée. Again, we both really enjoyed our choices. The Crème Brûlée was light and creamy, while the Tiramisu was rich and smooth. We rounded off with coffee, both in full agreement that the meal had been delicious.
Now, for those of you who like a bit of meat with your meal, both menus do, of course, offer a good range of meat and fish dishes, with the à la carte menu in particular providing a good selection of beef steaks as well as chicken dishes. The beef, we were told, is sourced from carefully selected farmers in the Yorkshire Dales, the Yorkshire Wolds, and The Vale of York, while the chicken comes from Harome, near Helmsley.
After our meal, I chatted to manager Sigita, who hails originally from Lithuania but has now been in the UK for ten years. With co-manager Lewis Jeffels, Sigita and her team want to provide a relaxed, welcoming environment for their customers and lunch can either be a leisurely affair or served a bit more quickly if you have to get back to work afterwards. Just make sure you tell the staff if you are short of time.
Sigita told me that the restaurant employs around 20 staff. While it is usually busiest in the evening, the decision to open at lunchtime was an obvious move for the owners; staff were working in the restaurant during the day anyway, prepping for the evening service, and they had the capacity to serve meals at lunchtime, taking advantage of the passing trade as well as providing somewhere to eat for the many local residents. Although about two and a half miles outside Wakefield city centre, the restaurant is easy to reach by car and public transport and there is ample free parking in front of the building.
If you’ve not tried Valentino’s yet, do give it a go – you’ll not be disappointed.
699 Leeds Road, Lofthouse Gate, Wakefield, WF3 3HJ