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[whitespace] Eric Tosh
Photograph by George Saakestad

Double Duty: The executive chef at Los Gatos' Valeriano's is the talented Eric Tosh, who also works at Eulipia in downtown San Jose.

Reinventing the Meal

Valeriano's in downtown Los Gatos finally receives the menu, management and kitchen talent it deserves

By Christina Waters

A VIGOROUS and refreshed Ristorante Valeriano has set the pace in a very brisk pack, we found out last week while savoring the new luster of an old landmark. Once the folks from San Jose's mighty Eulipia took over and filled the kitchen with the sensitive expertise of chef Eric Tosh, things began looking up for the lovely old Victorian showpiece.

The meal we sampled last week ranks among the finest Mediterranean meals we've encountered outside Italy. From sensuous tuna carpaccio romanced by basil oil and capers to an enchantingly authentic rendition of veal scaloppine with porcini mushrooms, the dinner provided everything desired in a dining experience.

The high ceilings, soft terra-cotta walls and gracious brass chandeliers all glowed with a new sense of mission. A hands-on management makes each patron feel pampered and welcome. Fine service further sets the tone. Our waiter swiftly produced a bottle of San Pellegrino and a basket of flawless francese, while we considered choices. "When was the last time we saw a menu like this?" Jack asked admiringly. "I'd order every single item on it."

Given the finitude of the human waistline, however, we decided to begin with appetizers of supple tuna carpaccio ($12) and something wonderful involving fresh sugar snap peas tossed with prosciutto in olive oil, mint and lemon ($7). The flavors of Italy burst forth in the haunting combination of sweet peas with mint and olive oil, suggesting Middle Eastern archetypes caught in a delicious Sicilian memory, and in the exuberance of basil against the pale pink tuna.

Our entrees were even more forthcoming. Joining them was a bottle of outstanding Zaca Mesa Syrah 1998 ($30), an astonishing spice-laden bargain from the well-constructed Valeriano wine list. On a spacious rectangular platter, Jack's order of veal scaloppine ($24) exuded earthy aromas of porcinis and pancetta.

The tender veal was accompanied by a well-made portion of garlic-laced mashed red potatoes and a brilliant bouquet of emerald romano beans, yellow wax beans and red bell pepper. Lavishly colorful and at the top of their season, each item delivered the flavors of Italy filtered through California. Old-world Mediterranean meets new-world Mediterranean.

My special pasta of the day inclined itself more toward California's translation of Italian classics, consisting of freshly made al dente fettucine topped with huge sautéed sea scallops and interwoven by bits of pancetta, baby spinach, shitake mushroom and red bell pepper ($21.95). A deft, yet very light hand tossed all these ingredients into a sensational plate of pasta. Bold yet delicate, filling yet not in any way overdone. And as with all of the finest pasta dishes, especially ones crowned by flawlessly, moistly prepared scallops, it was utterly voluptuous.

Trading bites, we enjoyed the contrasts of the intensely flavored veal, with its concentrated topping of porcinis, kalamatas and bits of sun-dried tomatoes--and the light, sunny pasta. Terrific entree chemistry, joined by the great syrah opening into a zone filled with blueberries and pepper. "Am I in Como?" Jack teased when he saw our desserts.

Inexplicably not a star in American flavor circles, hazelnut is beloved in Europe, and a parfait goblet of hazelnut gelato ($5) arrived for dessert topped with crisp rolled cookies and a light drizzle of chocolate sauce. I've eaten this very creation in Italy many times--and it's thoughtful of the Valeriano kitchen to make it available as an authentic finale.

Another elegant choice, an intensely lemony, feather-light cheesecake ($6), joined two generous espressos. We felt like the leads in a bittersweet Fellini film, alternating bites of sumptuous cheesecake, lightly anointed with a fresh strawberry sauce, with sips of perfect espresso. If only everyday life was as impeccably balanced and yet as generous as this dinner at Ristorante Valeriano.

In a neighborhood clamoring for upscale business, and well stocked with wonderful dining possibilities, this superb revival is making a very clear, strong statement. Ristorante Valeriano is once again a sophisticated presence in downtown Los Gatos, true Mediterranean consciousness in the smart heart of the South Bay.

Ristorante Valeriano
Address: 160 W. Main St., Los Gatos
Phone: 408.354.8108
Hours: Dinner 5-10pm Mon-Thu, bar open till 11pm; 5-11pm Fri-Sat, bar till midnight; 5-9pm Sun, bar till 10pm
Cuisine: Contemporary Italian
Entrees: Moderate-expensive
Executive Chef: Eric Tosh
Full bar

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From the August 23-29, 2001 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2001 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

For more information about the San Jose/Silicon Valley area, visit sanjose.com.

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