It all started one day while we were dreaming/discussing spaghetti and meatballs, the classic Italian comfort dish. That led us to publish a poll where we asked you to tell us who had the Best Pasta in Fresno. Almost instantly we were hit with an overwhelming response for one particular location. Valentino’s!
Naturally, we reached out to them and we’re so very happy to bring you this interview.
Who are you, where did you come from, and what do you do?
I am Rafa Ramirez. I was born in Jalisco, Mexico. I arrived in the states back in 1974. I grew up in Ventura, CA. I’ve worked many different jobs in my life. However, the first day I started working in the restaurant business I fell in love with it. I knew right there and then that this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I was blessed with the opportunity to open my own shop, working alongside my daughter Gracie. And Valentino’s was converted into reality.
And, what about the Valentino’s?
Valentino’s is a small, cozy and super beautiful vibe restaurant. We do few dishes but they’re as original and tasty as they can be. We’ve been operating for a year and change. We’ve been accumulating and producing regular customers that, I hope, call us their oasis. My mentor, Anthony (Big T) Valentino Fabbian is my biggest inspiration. We insist on making you feel welcome, give you a fair meal for your dollar and be accommodating.
What makes Valentino’s stand out?
RAF: We are unique. We create as many dishes as possible close to original. We strive to use the best ingredients possible to create the Valentino’s brand. Our people have chosen our Lasagna as our flagship dish. We also have a team, Gracie, Amanda and I, that strives to be the most welcoming and accommodating. We want to become the
“Cheers” of downtown. Where we know your name and realize how hard you work for your money. That’s why we insist on giving you the best value for your dollar.
GRACIE: When we first opened, I told him that we were just another restaurant—that is the reality. These kinds of store fronts come and go, especially downtown. What sets us apart is Raf’s high energy and goofball personality. He LOVES nothing more in the world than being his own boss and it shows; that is what I try to show on our Instagram. We may be another restaurant, but we want you to become a part of our family— a lot of people come in after seeing our Instagram and feel like they already know him! This is so important for both of us because in order for us to be successful we want to be able to build relationships and we can’t do that if we try to put on a fake personality. Him singing along to the music (sometimes not so well), dancing with some of our regulars or using NSFW language on IG stories are what make him a real person, and people love that!
What is it that most people DON’T know about your business?
Ever since we opened we noticed that some people are not sure of what to order.
At Valentino’s we would like people downtown to experience the dishes that are mainly served in fine dining and brought downtown by us. For example, chicken marsala, chicken picatta or oven baked gourds filled with portabella mushrooms and Italian sausage. Other than that, if anyone has a dish in mind, even if it’s not in our menu, we will do our best to accommodate.
Anything coming up?
We would like to be able to afford a van because we’re very eager to accommodate our catering business.
Also, if everything goes well, we’re considering opening another location in the next two years. A lot of dominoes have to fall together to make this happen, but we’re very confident that our goals will become a reality. But not without everyone in downtown helping us to achieve them.
On a personal note, we at Valentino’s thank and are grateful to each and every person that helps us feed our own family. Thank you!
FIND VALENTINO’S ITALIAN TRATTORIA