Valenti's, the three-year-old Italian restaurant in Beachwood, quietly closed its doors earlier this week. But the closure is only temporary, promises management, so that significant changes can be made to the operation. At 4:00 p.m. this Friday, April 1, the restaurant will reopen with a new name, concept, menu and executive chef.
That chef is Gilbert Brenot, the original owner of Maxi’s in Little Italy, who went on to help open EDWINS at Shaker Square. He left that restaurant a year and a half ago.
“I took a year and a half off and now I’m back and ready to try something new,” says Brenot.
Brenot explains that while the food at Valenti’s was lovely, it never made a big splash with East Side diners.
“Milo [the owner] tried to do really traditional Italian food like what he grew up with while he was in Italy, but people didn’t understand it, didn’t go for it,” he says. “They tried everything they could to make it work and then realized it was not picking up so they had to make something happen. That’s when I came into the picture.”
Ratatouille (3365 Richmond Rd., 216-464-4665), the restaurant’s new moniker, will blend Italian and French food – both specialties of the chef – into one seamless package. The name was chosen, notes Brenot, because it hails from a region of the world where the lines between French and Italian cuisine blur.
“In that part of France, Italian and French cooking are very close, very similar,” he says.
The new menu reads a bit like the chef's Greatest Hits album, combining a few holdovers from Valenti's with items plucked from Maxi’s, EDWINS and elsewhere.
“I decided to just keep doing what people like,” the chef says. “I’m not copycatting anyone; these are all my dishes.”
Beginning Friday, diners will see soups and salads like Wedding Italian soup and French onion soup alongside a traditional Caesar with anchovies. Housemade charcuterie platters might feature duck rillettes, chicken liver mousse and rabbit pate. Valenti’s popular meatballs will appear side-by-side with Brenot’s wonderful frog legs, buried beneath a landslide of fried garlic.
For lunch there will be Croque Monsieurs and Croque Madams, as well as mussels frites and pan-seared salmon. At dinner, four pizza options range from duck confit with wild mushroom to a Pissaladière-style with onions, olives, garlic, thyme and anchovies. Also on the new dinner menu are a handful of pastas, like Bolognese, meatballs with fettucine, and a seafood bouillabaisse with clams, mussels, scallops and shrimp in a saffron-white wine sauce.
Heartier meat-based entrees include half duck à l'orange, New York strip au poivre and monkfish Dugléré, a dish of poached fish with tomato and tarragon sauce.
The interior of the restaurant also is undergoing some cosmetic tweaks to ready it for the next chapter.