Carol Valentini - Carrying on a Family Tradition of Fine Italian Cooking
The Valentini name has had a storied history of family traditions, recipes, and restaurant ownership for nearly 90 years. Matriarch Justina Valentini brought the family recipes from the small mountain towns of Sarnano and Fabriano, Italy when she emigrated to the United States.
Since then, three generations of the family have been crafting the authentic blends of spices, herbs and sauces to create Valentini’s homemade pasta and entrees, starting in 1934 with their Valentini’s Supper Club, in Chisholm, Minnesota. It is still operating today with family members Paul David Marturano and co-owner Rob Russo at the helm.
In 2008, Carol Valentina, Justina’s granddaughter established her Valentini’s Vicino Lago restaurant on London Road in Duluth. For a long time, Justina, who is now 96 years old, made noodles for the restaurants. Carol is justifiably proud of her grandmother and all that she learned from her.
“She was probably the savviest businesswoman I’ve ever seen, and I am proud that she kept her maiden name. She was always one to take care of people, and to have huge family holiday gatherings.”
Carol added, “I have tried to follow in her footsteps in maintaining what our family has always stood for and the passion we have for carrying on the family name and traditions.”
Some of Carol’s earliest memories are of helping her grandmother in the kitchen. “Even as kids, we would sit and roll the ravioli into balls. We would also help to make gnocchi by hand, putting the signature thumbprint on the top.”
While Carol says her favorite food is peanut butter, her favorite Italian dish is gnocchi with Bolognese sauce and a touch of Alfredo sauce.
Before opening her own restaurant, Carol was busy raising her three sons, Joe and Dave, now both dentists, and Mike who is an attorney, all of them living in the Twin Cities area. “They are all great cooks,” Carol said, “but none of them was interested in going into the restaurant business”.
Carol was a medical technologist for 12 years, and she also took an active part in the Northland Foundation and Kids Plus program for 12 years before opening her restaurant.
Besides her original London Road restaurant, Carol also opened a Deli in the downtown Skywalk with two locations that they recently consolidated into one.
After the hits of the pandemic on the restaurant business, Carol moved her restaurant to Hermantown at 4960 Miller Trunk Highway in Hermantown. The new Valentini’s Hermantown Bistro offers dine-in, take-out and catering options.
Some of the Hermantown dishes on the menu include a variety of appetizers, salads, pizzas, burgers, soups, and Italian favorites such as ravioli, gnocchi, fettuccini Alfredo, tortellini, carbonara, and several other specialty pastas, and meat, chicken, seafood and vegetarian entrees. Diners can choose from several different sauce types for their meals.
“It has been a challenge to make the move to Hermantown to a smaller venue. But we have been lucky that our customers have followed us up here, and every day we are building up relationships with our new customers too.”
“We always treat everybody like the family here,” she said. She has a standing joke that after patrons come here a few times, she will ask if want to put on an apron and help out in the kitchen.
Carol asserts that the most important element to running a restaurant is a positive environment. “Being a successful business owner is having a great team of people and having the chemistry to work well. I am so blessed with my hard-working employees. my staff is fun and works through all the demands of a relentless job.”
‘Through good times and bad, my family’s restaurants have endured. I am very proud of that! I have always been connected to food and always will be. It is in my DNA. That’s why I am still here and still cooking.”
“I owe a debt to the people who have supported us and continue to do so in the new place. Grazie to all of you!”
For more information, hours, and menu for the Hermantown restaurant, call 218-206-7557 or visit their website at valentinisduluth.com