in italiano )
is the "ambassador" of the Italian Cuisine in the world.
In the United States, where numbers are all that matter,
he is considered, by his very colleagues and competitors,
the best restorateur of all. Not everyone knows, though,
that behind that by now famous name, there is one of all
those Sicilians, that working hard has made out a fortune
of nothing. Piero Selvaggio (www.pieroselvaggio.com)
is the owner of the best famous "Valentino",
restaurant of vips, in Santa Monica, California, and has,
in spite of his notoriety, never given up or neglected his
roots. He is born in Modica, where still lives the aged
mother and a aunt of his, beside the multitude of friends,
who lovely greet and welcome him every time he comes back
the "Valentino", Selvaggio runs two other
restaurants: the "Primi" and the "Posto".
"I opened two restaurants in Vegas a year ago, within the
Hotel Venetian", "still there, two more are coming and they're
about to convince me to open a Wine Bar in Tribeca, exclusive
quarter in Manhattan, New York.
reached Selvaggio in his office, at the 3115 of Pico Boulevard,
Santa Monica, California. He tells us he was 18 when he
left Modica and moved to New York. The not so usual story
of a self-taught and made-man that before creating an empire
has worked hard, as a dishwasher, chauffer, at the service
of important people and vips, some of whom still received
in his best gourmet restaurants.
presume, Mr. Selvaggio, that the secret of your success
much lies in the offer of Italian food. Do you also offer
like - he talks in the plural, constantly referring to his
chef and team - to call it "Italian contemporary", since
we use to serve dishes of our own, dishes evolved and grown
up with us, throughout years of adjustments and experience.
In 2000 the "Valentino" turned 28 years from his opening.
Dishes like the "Timballo alla Norma" or the "Involtini
di Pesce Spada" are extremely loved. Yet, they need adjustments.
I mean that the "Involtini" are served on a bed of onions,
according to the original recipe, but Hawaiian onions. The
"Timballo", as well, is adjusted with Japanese aubergines,
sweeter and less salted then those we are used there, in
do you import from Italy, or Sicily?
of items. From the capers of Salina to the botargo of Muggine,
the buffalo's mozzarella of Battipaglia, the "pomodorini"
of Pachino, chocolate of Modica, truffles and a wide range
of hams and cheeses'.
do you remember of the Modica's specialties of once, as
I remember my favorite were the "arancine" and the "scacce",
and the "focacce" of Ragusa. And the ice-cream of the "Latteria",
a renowned bar
of the center of Modica'.
recent, Mr. Selvaggio, Sicilian wines are living a moment
of prosperity. What do you think about them, even considering
that you live in a land, California, which is a best producer
review "Wine Spectator" has awarded us, this year, the best
"American Cellar", among the biggest in the world, with
some 230.ooo bottles. So let's not forget Sicilian wines
like the "Regaleali del Conte Tasca" by Francesca Planeta,
the "Cerasuolo di Vittoria" by COS, the "Passito di Pantelleria"
by Salvatore Murana, the "Duca Enrico" by Corvo, the "Faro
Palari" by Salvatore Geraci, the "Ceuso" by Antonio Melia,
and others that are leaders in Sicilian and Italian tradition'.
Selvaggio, the best quality of your exclusive restaurants
is pretty expensive. Is that really basic for who wants
to eat well?
quality costs. At all levels. It's important to distinguish
of course, when you're entering a fast food, a pizza shop,
a restaurant, etc. There are many levels, especially of
restaurants. Like the "Enoteca Pinchiorri" in Firenze, or
"Aimo" and "Nadia" in Milano, we have costs to bear and
to necessarily amortize. To get fresh fish from the Mediterranean
three times a week, or seasonal truffles or other exclusive
products of the Italian tradition is highly expensive and
requires a specialized organization. To have the best olive
oil or meat … we cannot look upon the price'. 'Here's why
people stop here. Our efficient organization, the skilled
ability of the chef and the staff. Everything in the right
place at the right moment.
sounds like easy. But this came the basic rule of your business
and life. But, then, what's the matter with most of Italian
restaurants, there in Italy?
c'è un segreto è nell'amare quello che si fa, farlo bene
è la nostra missione. Creare delle mode e non seguirle.
c'è che non va, allora, nella nostra cucina, nei ristoranti
think that even the best restaurants in Italy make mistakes.
I think in Italy they excessively mean poetry rather than
business, as we do here. Numbers are wrong there. I think
is about mentality and practicalness'. 'Here, you make numbers
or die. 92% of the new restaurants in L.A shut down in one
year. This is the reason we aim at the big numbers: 400
through 600 clients a day, between lunch and dinner. In
Italy most restaurants are family businesses. That way quality,
of course, will never reach our level. .
by Silvio Sammito
LA MASSERIA E' BOTTEGA D'ARTE, IL CASARO L'ARTISTA
Colazione o per dessert LE
GRANITE - passione siciliana
CON PIERO SELVAGGIO, modicano, ambasciatore della
cucina italiana nel mondo.
una grotta, nei pressi del Castello di Modica, Giuseppe
Lucifora ha ricavato un Museo di storia modicana dove si
possono gustare i succulenti piatti della vecchia tradizione