Santa Monica’s landmark Valentino restaurant celebrated it’s 40th birthday this winter with a couple months of festivities. But will it make 41? Maybe not. Owner Piero Selvaggio has put the restaurant up for sale. The price is high -- $4.9 million – but it is an attractive piece of real estate with a lot of restaurant history attached.
“I have a big piece of real estate and it’s not producing what it could produce,” says the 67-year-old Selvaggio. Plus, he says, he’s ready for a new challenge. “At this point I feel compelled to move on and do something simple, smaller and more exciting. Why should I not cash in my big asset, if it happens, and start fresh in a new environment?”
The restaurant, on Pico Boulevard near the 10 Freeway and No. 70 on Jonathan Gold’s 101 best restaurants list, is being listed by Conroy Commercial. The sale price would include the 8,000-square-foot restaurant as well as the 12,500-square-foot lot and a full liquor license.
Selvaggio and a partner opened Valentino in 1972 on a $4,500 investment. Over the years, he gradually expanded the place and improved the food and it eventually earned a reputation as one of the best Italian restaurants in the world.
He helped popularize many of the Italian ingredients that are now standard at fine restaurants – extra-virgin olive oils, great prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, artisanal dried pastas and fine wines.
But that was yesterday’s challenge. Today, Selvaggio says he’s ready to try something different. His Valentino restaurant in Las Vegas at the Venetian Hotel & Casino will close the first week in July. And if the Santa Monica Valentino sells, he hopes to have a new restaurant location picked out before escrow closes.
“I have all of these ideas that right now are bouncing around in my head,” he says. “You need a shot of excitement from time to time. I have a lot of ideas, maybe focus on the cucina del sud, the cooking of southern Italy, where I am from. Maybe it’s time to put the name Valentino to rest. There is an end to everything and it is probably time to revisit Valentino.”
Selvaggio says he’s heard from many potential buyers over the years, but last month Conroy Commercial actually came up with a proposal. “We’ve had a lot of buzz and a lot of requests, this is a big building,” Selvaggio said. “So when they asked me, I gave the same answer I usually do: ‘Of course, for the right price anything is for sale.’ ”
After Conroy Commercial penciled out some numbers, they showed them to Selvaggio. “When we got to that number, I said ‘Sure, that would be my retirement!’”