Valenza (Brookhaven) – Not Great Food and Horrible Service

Our recent visit to Valenza in Brookhaven was disappointing. The food was fair, while the service is in desperate need of a major facelift. We arrived for our 700 reservation and decided on a table on the deck. It was a beautiful June night, with the temperatures in the mid-70s.

The server approached and filled our water glasses and directed us to the wine list. It was a good ten minutes before he returned, not an extraordinary timeframe, just a precursor of what was ahead. We asked for his recommendation for a white wine (similar to a Chablis, since we were not familiar with the Italian and New Zealand offerings on the menu). He brought a taste of an Italian, which was not to our liking; we were looking for a little fruitier. He said the two NZ wines were more aligned with that desire and we asked for a taste. This obviously rustled his feathers as he just stared at us, I guess one taste is all a customer can request. We ordered one of the NZ wines, not especially pleased with the server’s attitude, c’est la vie. The wine was delivered 15 minutes later, not exactly what we were looking for, but reasonable enough.

And now the real wait started. It was probably another 30 minutes before we saw him again. When he returned, the first words were, “Are you ready to order?” We asked if there were any specials. He again seemed irritated and rattled off, “We have tuna tartare, a fish and a veal chop.” No other explanation. We asked about the tuna tartare. “It is an appetizer dish and it is a normal preparation, but no avocado.” Service was now borderline rude and unacceptable. Three people ordered the tuna and I ordered the octopus for appetizers.

The tuna tartare was not anywhere close to a “normal preparation,” more a crudo than a tartare. Large slices were served in a bowl with halved olives with an olive oil. While we were surprised at the presentation, it was delicious. I would definitely order this again, but they should change the description. I would give this a 9, and the highlight of the food.

The octopus was not as good, it was very salty, seemingly prepared in a salty brine and very spongy. It was accompanied by chick peas, thinly sliced onions, olive oil and a touch of chili oil, which added a nice little zip. There were two tentacles and then some slices. The saltiness was much too distracting and I was not a fan of the texture and would give this a 4.

For my entrée, I ordered the squid ink pasta with Georgia shrimp white wine, oven dried tomatoes, Calabrian chili, and basil. The pasta was perfectly al dente, and that is the only positive I could state. The shrimp still had their tails attached so the first 5 minutes was me removing each of the tails. While eating, additional tails which were hidden crunched as I ate them, a very bad feeling. The sauce was good, nothing special and if there were oven dried tomatoes in the dish, they were indistinguishable. Other than the texture of the pasta, the dish was underwhelming. I am being generous again with a 5.

A friend ordered the spaghettini with meatballs in a San Marzano tomato sauce and my wife ordered the capellini (substituting penne) which was described on the menu served with fresh tomato, basil, and parmesan. The spaghettini was engulfed in sauce; it has been a while since I have seen that much sauce smothering pasta. My wife “fresh tomato” was not as described since it did not include fresh tomatoes; it was also engulfed in the San Marzano tomato sauce. We would have retuned at least two of the dishes, but it was getting late and we just decided to avoid another prolonged wait. I did not taste their pastas, so I cannot give either a number rating, but my guess it would be close to mine.

We shared a chocolate pudding for dessert. It was served in a bowl topped with whipped cream and hazelnuts. The dish was 70% whipped cream and a dollop of chocolate pudding underneath. This probably deserves less, but I will give it a 4.

We did have a great time with friends, but the food really needs an uptick, and the service needs a complete overhaul.

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