Review of Valentino, Italian Restaurant in Bournemouth

Just to let you know, this post was written before I started the paleo diet to help ease my psoriasis. Nowadays I eat a more allergy-friendly diet, but leave these older, non-paleo posts up in case they are useful to readers, as I know not everyone eats the same as I do. Thanks for your understanding. 

You know how it is. You've driven, with the children, for two and a half hours. It's late - they're tired, bored and hungry. We planned to eat at the Bournemouth hotel we were staying in - but a quick glance at the menu revealed that it seemed cold, clinical and the fussy menu looked distinctly un-child-friendly. So we dropped the bags, and walked about ten minutes towards the beach to one of my favourite haunts: Valentino.  

Valentino by night

I've been going there since I was about sixteen years old and I have to say that during that time (around  17 years) it's not really changed. Tables are still draped with the traditional red and white checked tablecloths, and black and white old Hollywood photographs of Rudolph Valentino dot the walls.

On arrival, bellows of "Ciao Bella" ensure you get a warm welcome and the children are hungrily seated. The menu isn't vast: there aren't pages and pages of dishes to choose from, but Valentino sticks to a selection of traditional, Italian dishes that are really good. The Spaghetti Vongole is served with a bowl of fiery chilli oil for you to drizzle over at will. The Tagliatelle Carbonara is creamy, eggy and tastes really buttery - the sauce clinging to soft ribbons of fresh tagliatelle. They also offer a gnocchi dish - the tender gnocchi made even more comforting by the addition of stringy mozzarella in the creamy tomato sauce. On the last day, my husband ordered the Vitello Crema - veal with a cream, mushroom and white wine sauce and kept on about how his mother used to make it "just like this". It wouldn't surprise me if there was a big Italian Mama in a red gingham apron out the back here, filling up bowls of pasta and tending to the grill.

Valentino's Tartufo Scuro - with a Zabaglione centre

We ordered the garlic bread - but we didn't need it, the portions were big, as you would expect. The garlic bread comes in two generous, doughy slices but wasn't as crisp as we expected and was probably a little too oily than we are used to. Pizzas - and there is a fair range - come in a 9 inch size, and children can have half a pizza each, or they'll dish up a half portion of anything on the menu, as everything is made to order. I'd totally recommend the Valentino's pizza - artichokes, ham and olives on a thin and crisp tomato and mozarella base. Desserts - which include the refreshing Tartufo Caffe and Zabaglione are definitely worth leaving a little room for, and the children had scoops of ice cream in their favourite flavours.

Valentino's is a 5-10 minute walk from Bournemouth Seafront

On the both nights we visited they were heaving, so if you do decide to pay them a visit it might be an idea to book in advance. The relaxed atmosphere inside is buzzing with warmth - so much so that fellow diners on nearby tables lean over and start conversations with each other. The friendliness just seems to rub off on people.

If you're looking for arty, fussy interpretations of Italian food, tiny portions arranged on big plates - Valentino's won't be your thing. But if you're after a culinary hug; tasty, satisfying traditional Italian food- just like Mama used to make - then get on down there and book your red and white checked table. I love the place - and that's why I keep going back. I've been going for nearly 20 years - but I haven't seen the big Italian Mama out back yet.

Valentino is on Exeter Road in Bournemouth, NH2 5AP - close to the BIC and the Seafront. Visit their website here or give them a call on 01202 293332.