The story of the Valente family

Paola and Corrado Valente left the small town of Bisenti in the region of Abruzzo behind for a better life in America. They arrived in the United States on Independence Day with their two children, Santa Bianca and Gaetano. As the story goes, Paola was elated as they approached the Eastern shores. To her, America was truly a land of opportunity, as evidenced by the grand display of fireworks everyone put on for her birthday, July 4.

This humorous anecdote has been passed down through the years throughout the family and exemplifies what Valente’s is all about; keeping family history alive.

My name is Marcello. Paola was my Nonna and Santa was my Mother. I was lucky enough to have both of them around me every day and along with them came amazing food. The stove was constantly on and we were spoiled from day one with amazing food, whether it was a chicken cutlet sandwich for your school lunch, spaghetti alla chitarra for dinner, or “square soup” (quadretti in brodo) on a sick day.

The clients of my father, an accountant who worked from our house, were fed an endless stream of chicken cutlets and drowned in espresso. Our guests were always in a food coma from eating so much gnocchi.

I was not born with a silver spoon in my mouth but it sure did feel like I was born twirling bucatini around a fork. Since I lost the matriarchs of our family, I have not stopped trying to get that feeling back.

I spent years cooking in restaurants. I’ve made the desserts, the fresh pasta in the morning, the drinks behind the bar, and expedited in front of the line. I’ve worked in Italian bakeries and at Italian Specialty stores. I have fond memories from each but nothing will ever top the days of helping Nonna make scrippelle soup or being my Mom’s official cutlet taster, though.

Since my kids were old enough to reach the countertop, I began cooking with them. We make sauces, pasta, soufflés, ice creams, and whatever else comes to our mind. I love it. It’s the highlight of every day that I get the opportunity to do it.

Valente’s brings all of this full circle. The memories of my Mom and Nonna remain alive while my children, wife and I get to build new memories as we grow our family business. I could not wish for anything more than combining my passion for making food with my love for my family.

Our first brick and mortar location is an homage to the corner stores from both Italy and South Philly, a small shop packed with cured meats hanging from the ceiling, meals made from traditional family recipes, and shelves packed with imported specialty items.

In the roughly two years that the Valente’s Italian Specialties brick and mortar was open, it regularly evolved. Soon, a ghost restaurant, Cilento Sandwich Co., was born inside Valente’s. It allowed us to make food to meet a demand that did not fit under the Valente’s umbrella.

When we stepped back and observed that evolution, we realized just what worked best, and Valente’s Cucina was born. We stripped down our menu, created an ambiance that shifts during the day, with a focus on South Philly comfort food at lunch and elevated small plates paired with wines and BYO “mocktails” at dinner.

Valente’s Cucina blends the old with the news, the accessible with the exotic. It is our way of bringing South Philly and Center City into one small South Jersey restaurant.