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Piero Selvaggio


“The restaurant world is a blend of business and poetry,” states renowned restaurateur Piero Selvaggio, who, over nearly 40 years in the business, has mastered the perfect balance of both. Expanding a $4,500 venture into a multi-million dollar business has enabled Selvaggio to realize his vision – to bring the food of Italy, with authenticity and style, to Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and most recently, Houston.

Selvaggio did not foresee his success in the restaurant business. Born in Modica, Sicily, he immigrated to the United States, arriving in Brooklyn at the age of 18. After a few months of washing dishes in a cafeteria at New York University, he moved to Los Angeles to live with an uncle who was a manager at the legendary Chasen’s. Selvaggio was given a job as a busboy, attending college during the day. Within five years, he advanced from busboy to manager, and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Romance languages, speaking fluent French, Spanish, English and Italian.

In 1972, when Selvaggio was 26, he received an offer he couldn’t refuse. “A friend suggested that we partner to open an Italian restaurant. I thought, ‘What do we have to lose?’ He sensed tremendous potential for quality Italian foods and wines in Los Angeles. Two years later, when his friend decided to leave Valentino and open his own restaurant, Selvaggio bought his partner’s share of the business.

By the early 1990s, Selvaggio and Valentino had reached its full potential. But disaster struck in 1993 when Selvaggio lost his home in the Malibu fire, only to be followed by the Northridge earthquake in 1994 which destroyed a significant portion of Valentino’s immense wine cellar. Despite the devastation, Selvaggio’s determination to survive was tenacious, and Valentino was recognized for its achievement and insistence for high standards in food and service. Valentino was awarded #1 of the top three restaurants in the country by Wine Spectator in 1995 and #1 by Ruth Reichl, then the restaurant critic of the New York Times, who praised Valentino as the best Italian restaurant in America.

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