What Chef Giovanni Rocchio of Valentino Cucina Italiana once considered his job has become his obsession
Just south of downtown Fort Lauderdale is an unassuming white building with a metal sign out front announcing “Valentino.” Once inside, it’s like falling into a rabbit hole. In the middle of this Italian restaurant is an open kitchen with chefs slicing away at scallions and flipping pasta over a hot fire. The traditional Mediterranean dining room, with white-washed walls, an oversized velvet sofa and linen tablecloths has become a standard of dining excellence since opening in 2006 and then moving to its current location in 2012. Make no mistake, though, Chef Giovanni Rocchio’s restaurant is far from traditional.
The first generation Italian-American grew up in the restaurant business with his siblings at the family’s restaurant, Valentino, in Plantation. Food wasn’t a passion, just quick cash. However, when he moved up to New York in his late 20s, something ignited within him and soon he was working at Mario Batali’s restaurants — for free — to gain experience. When his father retired from Valentino, Rocchio moved back to Broward County to open up his own restaurant, keeping the name.
Rocchio takes us on a food-making journey in Broward County, surrounded by coriander, cilantro, and unique Thai lavender frog egg eggplants from Harpke Family Farm in Dania Beach and then to his restaurant. Here, he shows us what inspires ever dish and creation that comes from his very soul.