Frank Valente has paired up with Chef Pullara at Valente Pizzeria Ristorante in East Quogue to give customers the best Italian dining experience possible.
Owner Valente opened the restaurant in 2009 with his son. Pullara joined after selling his restaurant in Cooperstown three years ago. He said he loves to bring southern Italian food to the tables of Long Island, but he will cook any cuisine for guests, so much so that he allows his customers to tell him what they want and he prepares it. “If they want Italian food, I’ll cook Italian. If they want Mexican, I’ll cook Mexican,” he joked with an Italian accent.
The friendly owner, Frank Valente, welcomed my co-worker Kelly and me into the dining room. He poured us a glass of Fiuggi, which, according to Valente, is water that has been blessed by the Pope and is good for your kidneys. Along with the water he poured us a glass of Villa Pozzi red wine from Sicily. The wine was a great way to cleanse my palate to start the meal. To accompany the meal, Valente sang in Italian and English. I felt I was dining along a street in Italy.
The first appetizer arrived at the table. It was a dish called Mozzarella in Carrozza, which is a slice of tomato sandwiched between two slices of bread, covered with succulent chunks of tomatoes and topped off with fresh basil. Pullara explained this dish is usually deep-fried, but he wanted the dish to be lighter, and that it was. It was pan fried with no oil. Next was the stuffed artichoke – stuffed with breadcrumbs, mushrooms and pignoli nuts. The pignolis added a nice crunch. The wine was paired perfectly with these appetizers – a great choice on Valente’s part.
After the wine and the starters, Kelly and I were ready for the entrées. Homemade gnocchi made with ricotta instead of potato. Wow. This was the best gnocchi I had ever tasted. It was so light and airy; it was the perfect amount of food for one. The bed of gnocchi was served under juicy tomato chunks and sauce, which made the gnocchi the star of the dish. I had to tell my father about this gnocchi – he’s tried just about every gnocchi dish on the Island; he can not wait to go.
Next we had Pullara’s favorite, his own creation called Chicken Paisano, which is a thin fillet of chicken with homemade mozzarella, basil and another light tomato sauce. It’s the perfect portion. Pullara noted there were three main sauces he likes to use, emphasizing the lightness.
Even though Kelly and I wanted to wave the towel, we had to finish up with dessert. If everything was homemade, we wanted to see what was going to be in store for us next, and boy are we glad we did!
Homemade Italian cheesecake made with ricotta and homemade tiramisu. In Italian tiramisu means “a pick-me-up.” The Italian cheesecake tasted like a pound cake, a light pound cake with lemon mixed inside, my guilty pleasure. The tiramisu had cream and ladyfingers, which were still crunchy, not soggy like a failed tiramisu. Belgium chocolate shavings topped the dish. The coffee, in this dessert, was pungent but in a good way. This pick-me-up had a generous amount of coffee, and because it was homemade with strong coffee it gave me the energy I needed to go back to work.
Everything I tasted at Valente was made with a delicate hand. It was delicious and I did not want to stop eating. Their pasta is freshly made along with their mozzarella and their bread for Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. The food and the staff are definitely reasons I would go back for more, especially the gnocchi dish that was one of my favorite pasta dishes to date. If you are interested in a smaller lunch, they have pizza slices; I suggest the sit-down option.
Valente Pizzeria Ristorante, 674 Montauk Highway, East Quogue. 631-653-6004, www.valentepizzeria.com.